In May of 2015 the faculty and board of trustees of Virginia Theological Seminary approved a new strategic plan that read in part:
"The Episcopal Church needs to learn how to create missional communities ... We need to teach the art of entering a neighborhood, perhaps starting an outreach ministry, and inviting those who support and are served by the ministry to a Bible Study or to participate in prayer, worship, and fellowship... we are proposing at the heart of this Strategic Plan to focus on teaching the skills and forming leaders with capacity for starting and supporting missional communities."
To this end, in January of 2016, the Office of Church and Community was formed under the leadership of the Rev. Dr. David Gortner with five-pronged imperative to:
· Advance New Mission Initiatives
· Advance Community Care and Justice Partnerships
· Advance Clergy Development
· Advance Educational Partnerships
· Advance Ecological and Environmental Care
Advancing New Mission Initiatives
– Finding distinct opportunities for creating or sustaining and strengthening new faith communities and for evangelism and public faith initiatives in new settings or based in existing congregations (3.3.1); expanding instructional opportunities in public faith and new ministry development on campus and in partnership settings (2.1.5); developing sturdy partnerships for work in these areas with Episcopal and other denominational bodies (3.2.1)
Advancing Community Care & Justice Partnerships
– Building, rebuilding, and anchoring bridges between VTS and key metropolitan organizations and agencies engaged in community relief, development, advocacy, and action (3.7.1, 3.7.2, 3.7.4); increasing opportunities for VTS’s mutual partnership, collaboration, contribution, and learning with varied organizations and agencies; developing sturdy volunteer opportunities and placements for VTS students, faculty, staff, families, and potential pre-seminary volunteers (1.1.2, 3.4.1); leveraging VTS’s potential position of leadership to foster ecumenical and inter-religious interaction among clergy and congregations, and between clergy and other networks with significant community impact; helping VTS redevelop public voice and presence addressing local and regional community issues.
Advancing Clergy Development
– increasing focus in post-seminary and in-seminary development of neglected competencies and habits for effective religious ministry and leadership (1.2.1, 2.1.1); fostering purposeful sustained interdenominational clergy interactions that nurture a culture of mutual support, accountability, and commitment to continuing development (2.3).
Advancing Educational Partnerships
– Building sturdy partnerships with educational institutions of higher education, primarily in the DC-Virginia-Maryland region, that open new possibilities for education and development of seminarians, clergy, and laity, in non-credit and credit formats; exploring possibilities for joint-degree collaborations; developing strategies for educational impact of VTS through participation in the efforts of other educational institutions that are consistent with VTS’s mission and purpose; supporting and encouraging VTS’s participation in the WTC emerging certificate programs in ecology and theology, and in criminal justice.
Advancing Ecological & Environmental Care
– Supporting VTS’s ecological, green, and sustainability initiatives in collaboration with Administration & Finance VP, maintenance offices, and student ecological missioners (3.7.1); advancing VTS’s participation in AASHE for STARS certification in institutional sustainability practice (6.1.5).