Tag Archives: scott gunn

Forward Today: Investing our money for the good of the world

Dear friends in Christ,

I’ve long been intrigued by ethical ways to use money for the good of the world. Of course, one choice is to make donations to organizations who seek the improvement of the common good.

There are also ways to make money while also using our money for good. For example, ethical investing puts money in companies with ethically sound practices to support those who are doing good in the world. There are funds which make micro-loans to people in developing countries to help them start enterprises that can be sustainable and support their economic improvement; one can invest in these funds and sometimes get a modest return on the investment. We can buy bonds that underwrite green energy projects, and these bonds may generate income like any other bonds.

I’ve been thinking about churches and their wealth recently. Should our goal be to seek the highest possible return? Or should we temper financial gains with moral and ethical interests. Can we do both?

At Forward Movement, we reinvested our modest investment fund a couple of years ago. Before we had a typical balanced portfolio with policies that were primarily oriented around financial return. After considering several options, we put our entire fund in a balanced ESG (environmental, social and governance investing) portfolio of stocks, bonds, and other instruments. This means we hope to do good with our money. By the way, since we made the switch, our financial performance has exceeded our previous benchmarks. (So it doesn’t always have to cost something to do good, though it often will.)

I’m not here to give financial advice. Talk to someone who does finance for a living to get financial advice!

But I am here to raise questions. Can we, as a church, change the world with our wealth? Can we encourage our members to pool their money to change the world?

Imagine if the church offered alternatives to predatory payday lending programs. Imagine if the church created investment funds to support the launch of small businesses by racial minorities and other groups who may not find financial support in our current systems. Imagine if we bought bonds to support transformational infrastructure, sustainable resource development, and green energy. There are many ways we could use our money to change the world.

Any time we want to change the world, we can start in our own hearts. At our house, we began with our retirement investments. We’re nearly done switching all of our money to ethical or socially conscious investing. We give money to the church of course, but also to other organizations doing good.

Are you using your money to change the world for the better? How is your church doing?

Yours faithfully,

 

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


 

More from our ministry:

Online Course: What Every Vestry Member Needs to Know about Money with The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania

Book ideas for churches and small groups: Learn more!

A book of pray and practice: Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book

Forward Today: You CAN make a difference

Dear friends in Christ,

As I mentioned last week, there’s been a lot of heartbreaking news lately. Images and stories out of Haiti and Afghanistan are challenging. The pandemic continues its deadly spread. How can we respond?

I’ve heard people say, “There’s nothing I can do.” Perhaps it’s true that no one of us can single-handedly solve any of these global problems. But it’s just not true that there’s nothing to do. As I said last week, prayer is always a good act. For those of us who are Episcopalians, there are other concrete steps we and our churches can take.

If, like me, you would like to see a serious commitment to welcome Afghan refugees in the US and other nations, you can take action. For people living in the US, the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations has a simple way to help you contact your Senators and Representatives. Just fill out a brief form to advocate for action to welcome more refugees.

While you’re on that page, notice the link at the bottom if you’d like to make a financial contribution to Episcopal Migration Ministries to support their work in settling refugees. You and your congregation can also indicate your interest in volunteering to help settle refugees. It’s rewarding work, and I hope you will consider doing this Gospel work.

Earthquake damage in Haiti

The people of Haiti have suffered more than most of us can comprehend. It’s been one disaster after another for more than a century. In response to the recent earthquake, you can donate to Episcopal Relief & Development’s relief work there. As you may know, the Diocese of Haiti is part of the Episcopal Church, so Episcopal Relief & Development has a good network through which to do its work.

If you are concerned about the continued spread of COVID, there are several steps you can take. Episcopal Relief & Development has a COVID relief fund that will be especially important for developing nations where a lack a resources may make vaccine campaigns challenging. The Office of Government Relations has a vaccine toolkit to support your work in encouraging vaccination among those who are hesitant. If you have influence over policy, you can create incentives or requirements for the vaccine in your organization, whether church or secular.

Don’t accept “there’s nothing I can do” as reality. There’s work for you. And there’s work for your church. Jesus commands us to love our neighbors, and our neighbors around the world need our love.

And let us never cease to pray.

Almighty God our heavenly Father, you declare your glory and show forth your handiwork in the heavens and in the earth: Deliver us in our various occupations from the service of self alone, that we may do the work you give us to do in truth and beauty and for the common good; for the sake of him who came among us as one who serves, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

Yours faithfully,

 

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


More from our ministry:

Online Course: Civil Conversations in Uncivil Times with Ray Suarez

From Grow Christians, our family blog: A Summer Morning, Broken Glass and the Bus Stop

Reading suggestion: Book ideas for churches and small groups!

Forward Today: What to do when there’s too much

Dear friends in Christ,

I can’t remember a week with more distressing news stories. The situation in Afghanistan is a nightmare, after decades of nightmares. The people of Haiti, who have already suffered beyond belief, are dealing with another earthquake. The global pandemic shows no signs of letting up, and here in the US we see hospitals overflowing. Fires and severe weather patterns continue to grow worse as climate change accelerates. Add to that the ongoing news of violence, oppression, and scandal, and it’s too much to bear.

What are we Christians to do in the face of impossible problems and insurmountable suffering?

I believe our response begins in prayer. And we should not just start there. Praying without ceasing is never the wrong thing to do. Prayer on its own can change things, and prayer can certainly shape our own hearts. Prayer is action, but it’s not the only kind of action.

As the old saying goes, if you feed someone, you’re not changing world hunger, but you are changing one person’s hunger. That’s simplistic, and there are all kinds of problems with this approach. It’s also not wrong.

So one person can change the world, one life at a time starting with our own. There are lots of small ways we can respond to the suffering in the world beyond our prayers (and I hope we always pray!). We can contact politicians to seek policy changes. We can donate money to reputable non-profit organizations who are working in the places about which we’re concerned. We can look at our own behavior and encourage behavior changes in our friends and colleagues. We can be bearers of grace and mercy in a world that often lacks both.

Whenever I’m not sure where to begin, I pray. Lately, I’ve found the Great Litany to be just the thing. I also like to talk with wise friends who are also seeking to offer a compassionate response to what we see in the news.

The worst thing we can do is to accept evil, suffering, and sin as inevitable. We must make no peace with oppression, violence, degradation, or suffering of any kind. After all, we follow a Savior who defeated the forces of might and evil in his day by his death and resurrection on the third day. God’s love is always stronger than the evil of this world.

Will you join me in prayer? And then let us offer grace and mercy in this world.

Yours faithfully,

 

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


More from our ministry:

Online Course: Civil Conversations in Uncivil Times with Ray Suarez

From Grow Christians, our family blog: Little by Little

Reading suggestion: The Path: A Journey Through the Bible

 

Forward Today: A detour on the journey

Dear friends in Christ,

Last week in Forward Today, I wrote about the opportunity we have as a church through this time of disruption to refocus our mission on making disciples.

Even a week ago, I thought we were mostly headed out of our pandemic crisis, but increasing case numbers – coupled with continued low vaccination numbers – suggest that the pandemic may be approaching another peak, unless our public health response and vaccination rates change.

There are plenty of places on the internet who offer commentary on the pandemic, so I won’t say more. But I do want to say a few things about what it means for disciple-making within the church.

Lately I’ve spent a lot of time speaking with lay leaders and clergy in the church. Several patterns emerge consistently.

Parents of school-age children are exhausted. Many adults are stepping away from ministries or volunteering in the church. Attendance numbers for in-person services have not returned to pre-pandemic levels, even in places where case numbers have been quite low.

I suppose it’s obvious to say, but we need to give up on the idea of returning to a pre-pandemic church. As I suggested last week, I’m quite sure we shouldn’t want to go back. We have the opportunity to chart a new, more vibrant future for the church.

Detour sign

So what do we do about exhausted and more distant leaders? Certainly I hope we begin with empathy, prayer, and compassionate care.

If you are an exhausted person who can’t muster the energy to be part of your church in the way you were two years ago, it’s OK. Rest. Even Jesus needed time for refreshment and prayer, so take the time you need. The church depends on Christ alone; the church will carry on as you rest.

If you are a church leader, the same advice about rest applies to you, too! But also, there’s a gift in all this. If people won’t sign up to continue some ministry or other, maybe that’s the sign it’s time to let that ministry go. If Sunday School doesn’t look like it did in 2018, that’s OK. Maybe it’s time to think about a new way to engage people of all ages in Christian learning and formation. And it doesn’t have to be figured out this month!

I guess what I’m saying is that if your church and your church’s people aren’t “back to normal” that’s perfectly fine. Rest. Be well. Re-examine. Realize that the start of the program year in September isn’t a hard deadline for anything. In God’s time, the church will do what it needs to do.

I really believe that. Our task is to cooperate with the Spirit’s guiding, but also we are human. We won’t always get it right, and we need times of rest. All of the chaos of our church is a detour on our journey of following Jesus, but we can still continue on the way.

If Forward Movement can support you, let us know. We offer lots of resources, and I hope you know that we are praying for the church and the world every day. We’re grateful for your prayers, too.

Blessings, friends.

Yours faithfully,

 

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


More from our ministry:

New online course from ChurchNext: Walking the Labyrinth, with Mel Soriano

From Grow Christians, our family blog: Sealed with the Holy Spirit

Reading suggestion: The Path: A Journey Through the Bible

Forward Today: Serve God in freedom and in peace

Dear friends in Christ,

This weekend, the United States celebrates its Independence Day. For the Episcopal Church, this is a major feast day. Our prayer book permits the use of a beautiful collect for the occasion:

Lord God Almighty, you have made all the peoples of the earth for your glory, to serve you in freedom and in peace: Give to the people of our country a zeal for justice and the strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

I love how the collect encourages us to see all the peoples of the earth as one people. But also, we are urged to use our liberty in accordance with God’s will, not for our own wants and desires.

Certainly, I am grateful to live in the United States. Our country has much to celebrate and to be proud of. We also have plenty of challenges and sins from which we must repent. I hope as we celebrate the founding of this nation, we can also commit to a zeal for justice. Wouldn’t it be amazing if everyone in the country were treated with dignity and respect?

It seems to be that patriotism means both gratitude for our nation and the willingness to challenge it to be better.

What about the United States are you grateful for? And what do you think we can do better as a nation? May God grant us strength and courage to have a zeal for justice.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

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More from our ministry:

New FREE daily email: Spanish edition of Forward Day by Day
Click here to subscribe to the daily Adelante Día a Día email

Reading Suggestion
Gifts of God for the People of God: Exploring Worship in the Episcopal Church

New ChurchNext Course:
Gifts Found on the Bumpy Road


Click here to read more Forward Today messages.

Forward Today: A zeal worthy of his grace

Dear friends in Christ,

This coming Sunday’s epistle offers a compelling invitation from St. Paul. He writes, “See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!” (2 Cor 6:2b).

There’s a reason this epistle is assigned to the Ash Wednesday liturgy. St. Paul is inviting us to repent, pronto. I love how John Chrysostom reads this invitation:

Let us not let the opportunity slip, but rather let us display a zeal worthy of his grace. We press on because we know that the time is both short and opportune. The acceptable time is the time of the gift, the time of grace, when it is decreed that not only will no account of our sins be demanded from us, but that we shall also enjoy abundant blessings, righteousness, sanctification and all the rest.

Sunrise over the mountains

Can you imagine? If we all had a sense of the astounding grace of Jesus Christ, we would want to bear fruit and to share the Good News with those around us.

Do you see how it works? We repent and change our lives not to earn God’s love but in thanksgiving that God loved us first. It’s a life-changing way of seeing the world.

I invite you to bask in grace. And then display a zeal worthy of that grace. Today is the best day to set a new course; to manifest the transforming love of Jesus in our hearts.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

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*John Chrysostom quote taken from Bray, G. L. (Ed.). (1999). 1–2 Corinthians (p. 255). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, via Logos software.


More from our ministry:

Read the latest from Grow Christians: Evelyn Underhill and Everyday Mystics, by Sara Erwin

Reading Suggestion: Acts to Action | The New Testament’s Guide to Evangelism and Mission

New ChurchNext Course: My Take on the Trinity with Wayne Jacobsen

 

Forward Today: Making it up as we go along

Dear friends in Christ,

Just yesterday, I had a chance to talk with a priest at a medium-sized church in the middle of the country. I was interested to hear how this church is coming out of the pandemic – what is changing and what is staying constant. The priest was asking me for examples of how similar-sized churches are adapting Christian formation to the needs of today’s church. It was a lively conversation.

This priest told me about some of the vibrant lay-lead pastoral care ministry, the beloved Bible study, and other ways lay leaders and clergy work together to make disciples. It was, for me, inspiring. At one point, I said to her, “I hope you’ll find ways to share the amazing work you’re doing with the wider church. Other congregations could learn from what you’re up to.” She said, “Well, we’re making it up as we go along.”

Making it up as we go along is actually a useful practice. Of course, our faith is eternal and constant. We don’t have to make that up! And we are blessed as Episcopalians with an ancient and comprehensive liturgical tradition that we don’t have to make up. But a lot of parish ministry benefits from a spirit of improvisation.

Interior of a church with stained glass windows

Making it up as we go along could be alternative language for, “We’re adjusting our practices to changing circumstances.” It requires the willingness to try something and fail. It requires a desire to find ways to share our ancient faith for today’s church. It makes us like St. Paul, who sought to “become all things to all people.”

Making it up as we go along doesn’t sound like much, but it is essential in today’s church. We’re emerging from a pandemic. We’re emerging from Christendom. We’re entering into a time when we can’t take anything about the church for granted.

Is your church adapting for our time? Are you discovering new practices that you could share with others? Are you running into roadblocks that others might have figured out? We’re all in this together.

I’ll be checking in with the priest I spoke with in a few months. She’s an amazing leader serving a wonderful church. I can’t wait to hear what they’ve discovered in their efforts to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

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More from our ministry:

RenewalWorks: Connect: Hybrid Church: A Way Forward, with the Rev. Tim Schenck
Wednesday, June 9 from 7-8pm ET
RenewalWorks: Connect is a monthly online conversation series with Jay Sidebotham, Director of RenewalWorks and other thought-leaders exploring ways to continue the work of spiritual growth. Watch past recordings here.

Reading Suggestion: Gifts of God for the People of God  |  Exploring Worship in the Episcopal Church

New ChurchNext Course: Mary in the Anglican Tradition, with instructor Jeff Queen

 

Forward Today: Summer reading

Dear friends in Christ,

Summer is getting closer, at least for most readers of this email. Lots of websites and organizations offer summer reading lists. This is often a time to relax a bit more, perhaps to dig into a good book.

We at Forward Movement have plenty of books you might like to read. We have a whole catalog of suggestions, but here are just a few ideas for summer reading.

The Way of Love: A Practical Guide to Following Jesus. You’re probably heard a lot about the Way of Love, our Presiding Bishop’s invitation to engage in the seven spiritual practices of turn, learn, pray, worship, bless, go, and rest. I wrote this little book with the assistance of seven lay people who share testimonies about how the practices of the Way of Love have shaped their lives. Bishop Curry was kind enough to write the foreword. It’s a practical guide aimed especially at people who might like to refresh their prayer lives or their efforts at evangelism or any part of our journey as followers of Jesus.

With Gladness: Answering God’s Call in Our Everyday Lives. Christopher Martin wrote this book we just published not long ago. It’s a fresh Benedictine-inspired way to answer the question, “What is God calling me to do today?” Martin believes that sometimes we get hung up on the big questions but miss opportunities to serve God in this moment. There’s also a video course based on the book. You’ll love Christopher, whether you read his book or enjoy his teaching on video.

Gifts of God for the People of God: Exploring Worship in the Episcopal Church by Furman Buchanan explores worship, especially the Eucharist. After a time when many of us were not able to share Holy Communion together, what better time to re-engage our experience of Eucharist. Moving from the first spoken word of the service—blessed—to the last phrase—Thanks be to God—Buchanan explains the theological and scriptural elements of the service, helping newcomers and longtime members alike gain a deeper understanding of this gift of God.

There are plenty of other books on our website. And of course, lots of other publishers have great books, too! Whatever you read, I hope you’ll make good use of a slower time of year to learn and to grow as a follower of Jesus.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

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Tune in!

Listen to today’s Forward Day by Day reflection on the Forward Day by Day podcast. Find morning prayer on the Morning at the Office podcast and end your day with the Evening at Prayer podcast. Available anywhere you listen!

 


In case you missed it…

Walk in Love | Episcopal Beliefs and Practices

Browse the ChurchNext library | ChurchNext

5 Spiritual Growth Strategies for the New Normal | RenewalWorks

Forward Today: Can we understand the Trinity? Does it matter?

Dear friends in Christ,

I love Trinity Sunday, but I often despair at going to church on this glorious feast day. You might ask, what’s not to love? We get to sing some fantastic hymns! We get one last dose of white vestments before the long, green season coming along. We get to offer our praise of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

And therein lies the rub. Too many preachers decide this is the day to explain the mystery of the Holy Trinity in eight minutes or less. It usually doesn’t go well, especially if the preacher decides to use metaphors for the Holy Trinity. This hilarious video explains the problem nicely.

Today is a day to bask in the glory of God. To use this day to delve into theological teaching would be a bit like going to your wedding and then offering a scientific explanation of what might be happening in our brains when we experience love. You see? It’s not a bad activity, but it’s the wrong activity for a moment that should be a celebration.

Can we understand the Holy Trinity? At a basic level, yes. The creeds do a pretty good job of summarizing things. Basic theological teaching, or a study of scripture can unpack how God is revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It’s not the easiest thing in the world, but it’s also not the most complicated. I mean, plenty of people enjoy watching a good cricket match without understanding all the rules! Or, to use a scriptural example, we don’t have to understand where the wind comes from to know that we need to pay attention to the weather forecast (John 3).

On Trinity Sunday, I hope we can simply enjoy the glory and majesty of God. Rather than get out our flowcharts, we do well to belt out the hymns.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

P.S. If you can’t sing because of the pandemic, find some good renditions of the hymns on YouTube and have a bit of Hymnal 1982 karaoke at home!

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Image: Wikimedia


Tune in!

Listen to today’s Forward Day by Day reflection on the Forward Day by Day podcast. Find morning prayer on the Morning at the Office podcast and end your day with the Evening at Prayer podcast. Available anywhere you listen!

 


In case you missed it…

Walk in Love | Episcopal Beliefs and Practices

Browse the ChurchNext library | ChurchNext

5 Spiritual Growth Strategies for the New Normal | RenewalWorks

Forward Today: Making room for the Holy Spirit

Dear friends in Christ,

This Sunday is the Day of Pentecost, when we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit.

My experience of this feast day is that it’s often accompanied by gimmicks. People make cakes and sing happy birthday to the church. The red balloons come out. And so on.

Now I have no objection to any excuse to enjoy a good cake. And if balloons liven up your worship, you’ll get no complaint from me!

Still, I wonder if we are doing these things to celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit or precisely because the Holy Spirit makes us a bit uncomfortable. As one who has a habit of making jokes in awkward situations, I know what it’s like to try to distract away from serious topics.

If we read the Book of Acts, we’ll see that the Holy Spirit led the church into all sorts of amazing new ministries and opportunities. The Gospel was spread in places that would have been inconceivable without the Spirit’s leading. The Spirit is not something that made folks smile so much as the force that compelled people into terrifying but fruitful directions.

In the days leading up to Pentecost, I encourage you to sit down and read the whole Book of Acts. It won’t take too long. It’s filled with amazing stories about what happens when the church lets the Spirit lead.

I wonder what would happen if we let the Holy Spirit lead us as a church? What if we used the Day of Pentecost as an opportunity to open ourselves up to what God wants, not what we might personally prefer? What are the places in our world that need Gospel witness, and how might the Spirit lead us there?

Let us pray that the fire of the Spirit animates our hearts to take us where we could not go on our own.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

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Image: Ted, Pentecost Icon, Flickr


Tune in!

Listen to today’s Forward Day by Day reflection on the Forward Day by Day podcast. Find morning prayer on the Morning at the Office podcast and end your day with the Evening at Prayer podcast. Available anywhere you listen!

 


In case you missed it…

The Way of Love | A Practical Guide to Following Jesus

Browse the ChurchNext library | ChurchNext

50 Days | Celebrating Easter with Daily Reflections

5 Spiritual Growth Strategies for the New Normal | RenewalWorks