A partnership with Episcopal Relief & Development

Forward Movement is pleased to announce a new partnership with Episcopal Relief & Development, an international relief and development agency and a compassionate response to human suffering on behalf of The Episcopal Church. Their work to heal a hurting world is guided by the principles of compassion, dignity and generosity.


This new partnership begins in early April 2018, with Forward Movement serving as the fulfillment partner for all Episcopal Relief & Development materials and resources, such as Lenten devotionals, brochures, Hope Chests, bookmarks, and more.

Beginning April 3, these materials will be available through Forward Movement’s online store.

Check back regularly to find updated materials, and new information about this partnership.


Forward Today: Evangelism Matters, Jesus Matters

In this week’s Forward Today, Scott writes from the Evangelism Matters conference–you can follow the conversation from Cleveland this week at evangelismmatters.org, and via the hashtag #em2018.

Dear friends in Christ,

As I write this, I am sitting in a room full of evangelists, people who are called and equipped to share the Good News of God in Jesus Christ. And, yes, this is an Episcopal gathering. 

Here at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland Heights, OH, the Evangelism Matters conference will begin. Over 400 people will gather to worship, to learn, and to share Good News. For the second time, I am delighted to partner with the Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers on the Evangelism Matters conference; Forward Movement and the Episcopal Church’s Evangelism Initiatives Team have worked together, and the conference has been planned by a brilliant, hard-working, and faithful planning team.


It’s a new era in our church. Organizations are working together. Jesus matters more than the silos that have sometimes held us captive. Jesus matters to us so much that we are seeking and serving him in people and in our world. Jesus matters enough to us that we are courageously sharing Good News of what he has done for us. Jesus matters. 

If you are here in Cleveland Heights, I’d love to meet you. And please thank the staff from the Episcopal Church and Forward Movement. And profusely thank the planning team. 

If you aren’t here in Cleveland Heights, you can follow the conference on social media with hashtag #em2018. Much of the conference will be live-streamed, so keep an eye on social media or the Evangelism Matters website. Be proud of your church. And give thanks for all that Jesus has done for us, and all the ways that we can change the world in his name.> 

How can you share Good News today?

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Today’s featured sale item is a groundbreaking book named best Bible study of 2015 by Illumination Book Awards: Lindsay Hardin Freeman’s Bible Women: All Their Words and Why They Matter. Just $16.50, today only!

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Forward Today: I am a Christian

In this week’s Forward Today, Scott reflects on Perpetua, and the powerful inspiration of her testimony.

Dear friends in Christ,

Today the church remembers Perpetua and her Companions. Perpetua was a catechumen, not yet baptized, when she was summoned to appear before the Roman authorities. She refused to make a sacrifice in honor of the emperor. At a public hearing, she said, “I am a Christian.” She was sentenced to death, to be martyred in an arena by wild animals. She faced death bravely, urging those around her to remain steadfast in faith.
It might be tempting for us to read a story like this and think of it as little more than a fanciful legend. But it is more than that. For one thing, the blood of those martyrs, along with the blood of countless others, had the opposite effect from what the empire’s authorities wanted. From their witness, the church was made stronger. People were inspired by the way Christians faced death, clinging to their Savior and Lord Jesus Christ until the end.


In our world, today, there are Christians under threat. But it’s not just in places where martyrdom is a risk that our faith is at risk. Most Episcopalians are reasonably well off. We certainly do not face persecution for our faith. But there is another danger. It’s easy to make sacrifices to false gods. Do we worship the accumulation of wealth? Do we choose to remain silent while others suffer injustice? Do we treat our churches are social clubs rather than outposts of God’s kingdom? Do we honor power and might over love and sacrifice?
I know that I often fail to live the demanding life that Jesus Christ asks of me. I neglect opportunities to share my faith. I fail to give generously to those in need. I enjoy the comforts of the institutional church, which sometimes looks too much like the empire. Today, I am inspired and indicted by Perpetua’s simple and incredibly brave testimony. “I am a Christian.”
May we all stand ready to testify to our faith, whether it’s at our last day or in the quotidian choices we make too casually. Let us all say, when the time comes, “I am a Christian.”


Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Today’s featured sale item is a great one for Good Book Club fans: A Journey through Acts: The 50 Day Bible Challenge. Just $11.25, today only!

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Forward Today: Turning toward God

In this week’s Forward Today, Scott reflects on sin, and how Lent offers “a good time to look at our own lives, and see how we might turn toward God.”

Dear friends in Christ,

Not long ago, I saw a conversation on Facebook that was, perhaps unwittingly, deeply theological. People were debating whether someone was a “good person” or a “bad person.” Of course, for Christians, the answer to both categories is Yes.
We are all made in God’s image, put in this world to be and to do good. So in that sense, every person on the planet is a good person. After all, we are made in the very image of God. That means every person is both beautiful and good.


On the other hand, from shortly after the moment of creation, we have squandered the gifts that God has given us. Every single one of us turns away from God, choosing fear and selfishness over hope and love. We all sin. So, in that sense, we are bad people. If I were pressed, I’d say we are all people who do bad things.
This means that we should resist categories that sort people into “good” and “bad”. Jesus told us judgement was not our job, and I think he was serious about that. Our task is not to label or sort others, but to call people to turn toward God. In other words, we reject evil and turn toward good. And we ought to do this graciously, because we’ve all sinned.
The season of Lent gives us the gift of a whole season to focus on turning toward God. Maybe we’ll work a little harder to see God’s image in others. Maybe we’ll be a little more patient when we see sin in others. And perhaps this is a good time to look at our own lives, and see how we might turn toward God.
Some Christians don’t like to talk about sin very much. I find it freeing. For when I think about sins as times when I turned away from God, that makes my work pretty clear. And it helps me be generous with others. Jesus Christ offers true freedom to all, showing us perfect love, offering himself for the salvation of the world, and liberating us from the tyranny of sin. Thanks be to God.


Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

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Forward Today: Pray for those called to ministry

In this ember day Forward Today, Scott offers a prayer for clergy and a reflection on the call to ministry.

Dear friends in Christ,

Today our church keeps the first of the spring ember days. Four times each year, we set aside Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday to pray and fast for those to be ordained and for those in the ordination process. More lately, it has become common to pray for clergy and for all people in their vocations.


I encourage you to pray, especially for those discerning calls to ordained ministry and those in the ordination process. While every member of the church matters, because each of us has a place in the body of Christ, the task of identifying and training clergy is an especially important one. Pray for those involved in the ordination process, for bishops and Commissions on Ministry. Pray for seminaries. Pray for the church, that we might see the Holy Spirit at work in those who are called. 


The process leading to ordination is often challenging. And too often, our imperfect church allows human sexism or racism to blind us to the work of God in those who are called to ministry. Pray – and work for a church that is just and a church that listens carefully for the still, small voice of God wherever it speaks.


O God, you led your holy apostles to ordain ministers in every
place: Grant that your Church, under the guidance of the Holy
Spirit, may choose suitable persons for the ministry of Word
and Sacrament, and may uphold them in their work for the
extension of your kingdom; through him who is the Shepherd
and Bishop of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and
reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and
ever. Amen.


Pray that God will bless every lay person and every ordained person with an inquiring and discerning heart.


Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Today’s Wednesday sale resource is The Path—just $16.50, today only!

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Forward Today: We are marked as Christ’s

In the new Forward Today, Scott reflects on Ash Wednesday, writing that this day “reminds us that life is a gift from God.”

Dear friends in Christ,

When I was a parish priest, I loved imposing ashes. People of all sorts and conditions would present themselves at the altar rail. They would kneel. And as I put the ashes on their foreheads, I would say, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Some people would have specially arranged their hair to make it easier to apply the cross. Some people looked bored, while others seemed to be struggling to take in the solemn warning. Young and old, long-time members and strangers all gathered to receive the ashes.




There is one cross I remember more than others. A whole family was preparing for baptism, including three children, the youngest of which was an infant. They all knelt, babe in arms. And there, I made an ash cross on the baby’s forehead. “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
It was a breathtaking reminder that all of us, even babies, are marching toward death. But there is good news. You see, Ash Wednesday reminds us that life is a gift from God. We don’t have much time in our earthly journey, so we should use this time well. We should do everything in our power to grow into the full stature of Jesus Christ. We should love as much as we can. We should be as merciful as we can be. We should work for justice with our whole heart. Ash Wednesday reminds us, graphically, that it’s not all about us.
We are marked as Christ’s. Everything we do is about Jesus Christ. The Lenten season offers us an annual opportunity to reorient ourselves, to reject those things that remove us from Jesus and take on those things that draw us closer to him.
The first time I went to Ash Wednesday, I was an adult. I wasn’t sure what to expect. The priest told me I’m going to die. And I was grateful for the reminder, and for the invitation to repent.
I hope you will gather with your church on Ash Wednesday and recommit to savoring this precious gift of life and using it well.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

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Forward Today: We can make time for Lent

In the new Forward Today, Scott reflects on how even Lent is something we often find ourselves trying to fit into our schedule, and asks: How will you use the gift of this season?

Dear friends in Christ,

As I write this, I’m sitting in an airport. Someone near me is talking loudly on a mobile phone, and I’m having trouble thinking anything other than “Would you please quiet down, so I can draft this important email?” Of course, that’s ridiculous. I can move. I can do a better job of focusing here. I can be more generous.



It’s actually not a bad parable for Lent. “Can’t my work just stop a bit, so I can focus on the importance of Lent?” We try to fit Lent in around other things, and we blame the other things when we don’t enter fully into the season of Lent. But of course, that’s ridiculous. Perhaps we can make choices about what we do during this season. We can make time for Lent. We can be more generous.
Lent starts in exactly a week. How will you use the gift of this season, this time of year devoted to helping us repent and return to the Lord? How will you make sure that a distraction does not become the thing. Lent – in fact, our repentance – is the thing. It’s easier said than done.
As for me, I managed to focus a bit. I looked up and enjoyed the view out the airport window. I took a deep breath, and I even gave thanks for my fellow travelers. It’s a lesson I could learn from, again and again.
Good thing Lent is just around the corner. I need it.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Today’s sale item is our new book of daily Lenten devotionals, Are We There Yet? Pilgrimage in the Season of Lent.

The book is also available for $4.99 for for Kindle, Nook, or in the iTunes store. To get future reflections from Scott in your inbox, subscribe to Forward Today.

Forward Today: Confession is good for the soul

Have you tried confession in the Episcopal Church? How did it go? In the new Forward Today, Scott suggests giving it a try this Lent–and predicts you’ll be glad you did.

Dear friends in Christ,

Confession is good for the soul. Holding on to things is never good for us, and that applies all the more to our sins.
Lent is just around the corner. Here we have a whole season devoted to returning to God, recommitting to following Jesus. Sometimes we take on new practices such as prayer or service. Sometimes people give up things that might be barriers to following Jesus. The point of giving up TV isn’t to punish ourselves, but to free up time for relationships with God and others.
In some quarters, Lent has been a traditional time for confession. I don’t mean casual conversation with others, where I own up to what we’ve done wrong. And I don’t mean a focus on the general confession that we say in Holy Eucharist. No, this is harder. The sacrament of reconciliation, often called confession, calls us to name all those things we have done wrong. And then, in a moment of amazing grace, our forgiveness is announced. The slate is wiped clean.

Lots of people resist confession for lots of reasons. Saying our sins can be embarrassing. But not saying them is worse. What if the priest doesn’t keep confidence? Don’t worry about that; the priest will guard your words until death. Why should we depend on a person to hear our sins, can’t we just say them to God? You’re not depending on a person any more than Holy Eucharist depends on wheat farmers. The bread in Eucharist is a vehicle of grace, and the priest in confession is also a vehicle of grace. No more, no less.
If you haven’t tried making a confession yet, give it a try. Any priest would be happy to talk with you about this. Though it’s not yet Lent, I’m writing about confession, because if it’s your first one, it takes some preparation. I promise that if you make confession this Lent, you’ll be glad you did. Forward Movement has a wonderful new book to teach us about confession and how to prepare for it. You can also talk with others. But whatever you do, consider the sacrament of reconciliation. Confession is good for the soul.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

If you’re curious about confession, Joy in Confession by Hillary D. Raining is a great place to start. It combines art therapy, scholarship, theology, and worship to create a powerful experience for learning about confession in the Episcopal Church.

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Q&A with Tim Schenck, Lent Madness Tycoon

Tim Schenck HeadshotTim Schenck is on the Lent Madness Supreme Executive Committee, along with his archnemesis (and Forward Movement executive director) Scott Gunn. He is rector at St. John the Evangelist, an Episcopal Parish in Hingham, Massachusetts where he resides with his wife and two sons.

Friend him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @Father Tim or Instagram.

In your opinion, what was the most difficult Lent Madness match-up you’ve seen?
Well, they’re all difficult because the whole concept is absurd. I mean, saints battling saints? Come on! But perhaps the most diabolical first round match-up we ever concocted was in 2013 when Martin Luther squared off against Martin Luther King, Jr.

Which Lent Madness mug do you use most often?
I have a generic purple Lent Madness mug that I use a lot since, you know, I’m entirely nonpartisan about who wins. But I do keep the whole collection of mugs from years past stacked on a shelf in my office. Oh, and when Dietrich Bonhoeffer won in 2016, a parishioner who was a big supporter of his bought one for everyone on the staff at church. So we have a lot of those floating around St. John’s.

How was Lent Madness created—how did the idea develop?
It really started on a whim. I was tired of sports fans (of which I’m a big one) having all the fun during Lent with their brackets while church goers were left to eat twigs and engage in other penitential acts. So I came up with the idea to teach people about saints while injecting a bit of joy into the season. I though Lent could use a bit of a rebrand — it’s not supposed to be the church’s season of depression. I mean, what could be more joyful than a season specifically set aside to get closer to Jesus?

Who did you think was going to win the Golden Halo last year?
Believe it or not, I never fill out a bracket or make predictions. Partly because, like Supreme Court Justices, members of the Supreme Executive Committee must be fully impartial. But mostly because I am always wrong! Far be it from me to foretell the whims of the Lent Madness voting pubic.

What is it like working with your archnemesis?
Wait, I have to work with Scott?! Alas, we all have our crosses to bear. Scott is mine and I’m sure the feeling is mutual. Nonetheless, we issue a decree of detente each Lent to pull off the world’s most popular online Lenten devotion.

Have there been any big changes to Lent Madness since its creation?
Many! The most significant change came in 2012 when I partnered with Scott and Forward Movement. Once we moved voting off my blog and onto a dedicated website, we were truly able to bring voting to the masses and add beloved devotional aids like the Saintly Scorecard. Bringing on a full slate of Celebrity Bloggers that year was another big change. I did all the writing myself the first two years, which seems crazy now — I don’t really recall much about Lent 2010 or 2011.

What’s most amazing to me is that even as it has grown and evolved, the essence of Lent Madness has never changed. It’s still all about introducing some incredibly inspiring saintly souls to people and introducing an element of delight to the season.

What other Lent Madness swag would you like to see?
A private purple jet for the Supreme Executive Committee. And trucker hats. Who wouldn’t want a Lent Madness trucker hat?

What is the most difficult part of running Lent Madness?
See number five above. Actually, there are a few things. Like getting Celebrity Bloggers Brock and Sibley to hit their deadlines. But mostly it’s the intensity of leading my own  congregation through a meaningful Lent while also tending to the “mega church” that is Lent Madness. These parallel congregations (and there is a bit of overlap) deserve the most inspiring walk possible through the holy season of Lent.

What is the most fun part?
SaintsI’m still amazed at the pop-up Lenten community that develops in the comment section of each match-up. Let’s just say that most online commenting sections aren’t know for their…graciousness. The community that forms around Lent Madness is an exception. People share their very personal reasons for voting a certain way, give additional information about saints not covered in the bios, and offer genuine concern for the spiritual lives of one another. That inspires me and is a joy to behold!

Any special plans for year 10 (2020)?
Great question. A special commemorative mug? (duh). We will definitely give this some thought and any suggestions are welcome. Still shocked that we’re approaching a decade of this Madness.

Is there anything else Lent Madness participants should know about you?
Starting in March, I’m taking a four month sabbatical. I’m excited about it but am aware that the first month will overlap with the last month of Lent Madness. But don’t worry! I’m not taking a sabbatical from Lent Madness. I’ll be doing some traveling to Central America that month so Monday Madness may suffer from spotty wifi on occasion, but the show will go on. I’ll also be doing some writing and you can look for my forthcoming book on the intersection of faith and coffee titled, naturally, Holy Grounds (Fortress Press, Spring 2019).

New to Lent Madness? Learn more here. Order scorecards and brackets at ForwardMovement.org.

Are We There Yet?: Excerpt from Lenten Devotional

Are We There Yet? book coverThe following excerpt is from our Lenten offering, Are We There Yet? This thought-provoking book explores the idea of pilgrimage as a metaphor for the Lenten journey. The contributing writers share stories of physical pilgrimages to beloved sites in the Christian tradition as well as internal journeys of the soul. Regardless of the type of pilgrimage, the journey radically changes each person. The pilgrims who have contributed to this Lenten devotional share this truth of transformation in stories of their own personal journeys. This excerpt was written by Bo Cox.

When I was approached to write for this Lenten devotional, I hesitated. I told the editor that I didn’t feel very connected to Christianity these days. It seems to me that the religion named after Jesus has become more exclusive than inclusive. It feels like it’s become more about prosperity and “what’s in it for me” than brokenness and welcoming the stranger, feeding and clothing the poor, and visiting those in prison. Further, the church seems to be consciously (or subconsciously) tolerating a governmental system that leads the world in incarcerating its citizens. This, the editor said, was exactly why I needed to write. So I accepted the invitation.

I don’t identify with mega-churches, prosperity theology, or a way of life that is more about what I get when I die than how I behave when I’m alive and how I treat those around me—especially those with less or those who don’t look like me or believe like me.

I seek the sacred word of God—in the Bible, the Koran, the Torah, written on parchment paper, drawn in the sand, or heard in the wind through the trees, uttered by a robed official of the church, a sweat lodge leader, an imam, or a bedraggled patient at the psychiatric hospital where I work. Writer Anne Lamott says simply, “We can assume we have created God in our own image when it turns out that he hates the same people we do.” I would add to that: “I can assume I have created God in my own image when I think I understand God.”

Today’s scripture from Ezra is about rebuilding the house of the Lord. The dictionary says rebuild means to build something again after it has been damaged or destroyed, and the authors of the Old Testament have a pretty concise idea about what this rebuilt structure should look like. I am not an authority on anything, certainly not rebuilding a temple. I do, however, have a little experience with rebuilding a broken human, along with an alternative understanding of the God who makes this possible.

What I know has little to do with wealth or material possessions but has much to do with vulnerability and accepting one’s brokenness. My education into rebuilding a broken human has more to do with muddy feet than golden carpet, with stumbling, not surefootedness, with need rather than entitlement, with being left off the invitation list (and being let in anyway) instead of being on the VIP list to begin with. What I have learned is that rebuilding a temple in our hearts has more to do with bad coffee, hand-me down clothes, and honest souls in musty church basements than prime rib dinners at five-star restaurants where lobbyists and politicians make million-dollar deals to benefit the already-wealthy at the expense of those crushed by poverty. Rebuilding the temple in our hearts has more to do with social workers who toil on the brink of that same poverty than administrators looking to retire early with a full portfolio of stock options.

Ezra’s lesson talks about the stockpile of wealth being a tower of material proof that God is good—and we are thankful. It also implies that wealth is a measure of favor and, therefore poverty must be anything but God-like.

The tower I see looks a lot more like a soup kitchen than a palace; it looks a lot more like crumpled sheets on a lopsided cot in a homeless shelter than starched sheets in a king-size suite in a luxury hotel. My tower looks more like a young forest of trees planted by people who will never see them reach maturity than a city block cleared for another million-dollar church where all the pretty people go to be told God wants them to have lots of money and fancy cars.

This week, we are not talking about a physical journey. This week will be about being still, about the journey within, about looking at ourselves in the mirror and seeing the image of God. I will share stories that illustrate God’s promise that just because something looks this way today doesn’t mean that the promise will always look that way. I want to talk about the difference between bad days when it feels like no one appreciates me and everything goes wrong, and good days when I am tearfully aware of how fortunate I am to be alive—and how this difference is simply my attitude and perspective. We will also talk about how it is not a coincidence that dog is God spelled backward.

-Bo Cox

Bo Cox and dog