by Rev. Bruce Barkhauer, Minister for Faith and Giving
What, exactly, does it mean that the General Assembly unanimously voted to accept the Stewardship Study Document (GA-1732)? Actually, that depends on you. The document itself becomes a historical marker for how we Disciples (those voting in the Assembly) think biblically and theologically about stewardship and what we believe are the indications for our faith as we move deeper into the 21st Century. Beyond that, the document simply lives in the pages of the 2017 docket; unless you, the church, choose to engage it.
The document is available in five languages (Spanish, French, Korean, French-Creole, and English) and it is meant to be read and discussed within every manifestation of the church.
It serves as a broad examination of the biblical materials that relate to the topic of stewardship, with an intent that the church become conversant with these fundamental understandings. It further provides a theological perspective which is intended to encourage dialogue and conversation within the church about what stewardship is, and what it means to be a steward as an individual, a community of faith, and as a part of God’s wondrous creation.
We recognize that not everyone will share the same conclusions/assumptions of the document. That is acceptable, since unity of opinion on how to be a steward in a singular way is not the primary goal. Our objective is to better define what a steward is. We trust that the church in its wisdom will discover what a steward does in the unique contexts in which individuals and communities of faith are located.
While the document is certainly accessible in its current form, we are pleased to announce that a curriculum team is beginning to write materials based on this document. This will be graded material for elementary, middle and high school, as well as adult study resources that can be adapted for multiple use for everything from Sunday school and small group study to VBS and summer camp. We want to make it easy to use the information and we recognize that having a developed curriculum available might help move this deeper into our shared life together.
The major points to know about this document are:
- We understand stewardship as a spiritual discipline, not fundraising
- Stewardship encompasses the totality of our lives
- It is about faithful response to what we have already received from the generosity of God
- There is enough – the provision of God is abundant – it is the human mismanagement of resources that has produced scarcity and created anxiety
- Where stewardship is practiced, it is inherent to the presence of justice; where it is absent, injustice frequently prevails
- Stewardship, faithfully practiced, is transformative – both for individuals and for organizations
- Necessary resources for mission and ministry come from congregations and impact the whole church’s ability to fulfill our common vision. We are in this together.
- We can’t be church without the practice of generosity
The document is not intended to be the complete, final authority on stewardship. It is meant to be a starting place for a conversation that church needs to have and one we need to begin now. We encourage you to access the document, to spend some time with its concepts, to share and discuss its ideas and implications, and (if appropriate for your context) utilize the curriculum when it becomes available in the spring of 2018.