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Decade of Evangelism

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Decade of Evangelism

O taste and see, that the Lord is good;
Happy are those who take refuge in Him. (Psalm 34:8)

The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor…. (Luke 4:18)


The Decade of Evangelism has inevitably disturbed our Communion in the spheres where we felt a comfortable complacency. Many provinces, dioceses and churches responded positively to the call of the Decade as proposed by the Lambeth Conference 1988. Areas where the church was already a vibrant reality appreciated the stimulation of new life around them. For some churches, seemingly rooted in a monotonous and repetitive model of Christianity, reflection and self-evaluation brought about a widened vision of the Anglican/Episcopal Church, and a new creativity as the power of God was made manifest.

This 200th decade of our era allowed us individually or corporately to begin to:

  • Revitalise our churches in evangelism.
  • Empower our laity and our clergy to embark on a vocation which has always been theirs.
  • Recover an aspect of the Christian passion for the love of God for all of humankind.
  • Be adventurous again in fields of failure where the missionary work was despised.
  • Initiate and build new communities based on the biblical teachings.
  • Sift the church’s values and install the contemporary reality in our expression of faith.
  • Flavour our richness with a multitude of expressions that are culturally uplifting.

However diverse the effect of the Decade of Evangelism has been on the Communion, we are on our way to retrieving the essence of our vocation. We resonate to the words of Jesus, to be “the salt of the earth and the light of the world.”  And we recognise that there is much more to be done.

Background to the decade

In 1988, the Lambeth Conference issued a rather modest call for a Decade of Evangelism. One could hardly imagine that much excitement could be ignited from the words of Resolution 43:

This Conference, recognising that evangelism is the primary task given to the Church, asks each Province and diocese of the Anglican Communion, in co-operation with other Christians, to make the closing years of this millennium a ‘Decade of Evangelism’ with a renewed and united emphasis on making Christ known to the people of his world.

Ten years later, the Lambeth Conference called on the church to build on what had been achieved by

…working for a transformed humanity, transformed cultures, a transformed mission for the Church, and transformed relationships with other Christian communities.

The boldness of the language, the breadth of the call, and the determination to carry the initiative forward all bear witness to the effectiveness of the Decade.  Noting that during the Decade of Evangelism “we have witnessed welcome changes in the world and enhanced efforts to share the Gospel of Christ,” the conference declared nevertheless that “many other injustices still disfigure our world and challenge our commitment to share the love of God.” (Resolution V.4)

In 1988, in Resolution 44, the Lambeth Conference issued a call for “a shift to a dynamic missionary emphasis going beyond care and nurture to proclamation and service,” and therefore accepted “the challenge this presents to diocesan and local church structures and patterns of worship and ministry.”  Widespread acceptance of responsibility for the task – while also looking to God “for a fresh movement of the Spirit” – has borne fruit.  A preliminary analysis of a communion-wide survey in 1998-1999, and reflections from the 1995 Mid-Point Review of the Decade, show widespread progress on this shift, and significant learnings. Paradoxically, the self-examination that usually has informed any effort to start or increase evangelistic efforts has led to recognition that yet more is required of the Church.

A decade of Discovery

There is no doubt that the Decade of Evangelism, while not universally successful, has challenged many Anglicans to proclaim the Gospel with renewed confidence. It has helped some to reclaim the very word evangelism. It has attracted new members and created more vocations. It has mobilised dioceses and provinces to do more training, of different types.  It has taught everyone that there are many models for evangelism.  It has helped people deepen their spirituality and commitment to their communities. It has led people to rediscovering the Bible as the Word of God. Here is one account:

Melanesia’s story

The Church of Melanesia is 150 years old – and is the biggest church of the country. Members of the Anglican Church have taken the faith for granted. It was once a stagnant church. The Decade of Evangelism rocked the church to spark new life. The Gospel is proclaimed, the parishes are becoming occupied with Bible studies and reaching out to others. The young people are flowing into the four religious communities, so many that they could hardly ever manage the numbers. Youth groups are becoming witnesses of the Gospel and are reaching out with the message of the Gospel to young people on the streets. Young people have shown great interest to do theological studies and be part of the ordained ministry. The Decade has caused the eight dioceses of the Province of Melanesia to establish training centres for lay workers of the church in order to equip them with the Gospel and be part of the ministry. As a result, the parish churches are being extended to cater for the growing numbers. 

Some other discoveries that Anglican evangelism leaders shared in the 1998-1999 survey are highlighted below.

People on the Way

We have discovered that the churches in our Communion are on a pilgrimage, and the Decade has helped them to understand this. As the Primates said in 1989 at their meeting in Cyprus, “Approach the Decade of Evangelism not as a terminal point but as a beginning. We carry on the Decade as learners, expecting its end to be followed by decade after decade of evangelism. God’s calling and sending forth are measured not by decades, but eternity.” 1

The Work of Repentance

A major learning has to do with the necessity to repent and seek forgiveness of past sins before the work of evangelism can begin. How can you do evangelism without a clean record? The experience of Paul teaches us that with a cleansed heart and a transformed mind, one can move ahead.  Nehemiah confesses on behalf of his people and himself. “Both I and my family have sinned. We have offended you deeply, failing to keep the commandments.” (Neh 1:6-7)

During the Decade we have heard deeply moving testimonies, particularly from the Anglican Church of Canada and the Nippon Sei Ko Kai, of churches taking responsibility for past mistakes, apologising on behalf of their people and church, and seeking forgiveness from those whom they have wronged (see Appendix E).  Although these churches may be small in membership, their powerful witness has pointed to an activity that is essential for transformation. Repentance before God and each other requires courage and humility, transparency and honesty. But once accomplished, there is release, freedom and new life. This, ultimately, is the message of the Gospel.

During G-CODE, the Mid-Decade Review conference in Kanuga, North Carolina, in 1995, the testimony of Bishop Joseph Iida of Japan and the subsequent acknowledgement and embrace from Colin Craston of England, “sent waves of joy, repentance and reconciliation through the audience… later on many others apologised publicly to others and asked for forgiveness for national, ethnic andracial sins.” 2  This pattern has been repeated in many conferences and meetings since then, with cathartic results.

The Blood of the Martyrs

Anglicans have been reminded throughout the Decade of the courageous witness of their sisters and brothers suffering persecution under authoritarian regimes or violence, and atrocities perpetrated during civil conflict.  Fear, famine and flight have been the reality for hundreds of thousands of Anglicans. Yet Sudan, particularly in the south, has seen people convert by the thousands during this decade.  More than 2,000 songs of lament and faith, sorrow and triumph, have been composed – often by young women and men who have lived half their lives as refugees.  The Communion can only stand in awe of such conviction, and give thanks for the witness of these souls.

Presenting the Gospel

The Decade has encouraged us to take Jesus Christ to the people.  We have been freed by the power of the Holy Spirit to act in the name of God.  “Hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”  (Romans 5:5).  For Anglicans, known in some places as the “frozen chosen,” this is no small accomplishment.

Reports gathered from all the provinces of the Communion show that people took initiative at every level of the church – whether as individuals, congregations, dioceses or provinces. Provincial and diocesan co-ordinators of evangelism and mission have been appointed, and many parishes have named evangelism committees.  Some new mission agencies have been created especially for the purpose of reaching the least evangelised peoples of the world.

“We have appointed a diocesan staff member to develop these areas and train people in them. Improvements and teaching in all these areas have had a positive effect on our diocese.” (An African Diocese)

New Life and Worship

As people realised that Jesus Christ speaks to us today and every day, their lives were changed. This was true both for new Christians and for nominal Christians. In many parts of the Communion, women and men affirm that Jesus Christ is good news: He still heals, he still saves, he still gives people new life. As Anglicans declared or renewed their faith, they found themselves eager to share in lively worship. Young people especially brought contemporary ideas into the worship. As people claimed their faith, so they reclaimed their culture, bringing indigenous music and instruments into the worship. Indeed, more attention was given to every aspect of worship, so that in its excellence and relevance it might give the greater glory to God.

Anglicans in Port Moresby became keen in reaching out to share their spiritual experiences with others, turning and winning souls for the expansion of God’s kingdom.” (Church of the Province of Papua New Guinea)

Transformed Communities

In certain areas, transformed lives led to social action. The Archbishop of Canterbury reported that“the Decade has helped begin to change the culture of the Church of England into one that is outward looking.” 3   People understood that the Gospel had an important message for society, and involved themselves in justice issues. In Brazil, especially, the church is leading such initiatives.  

“The ‘conversion agenda’ is essential.
Only those who are converted can evangelise and be sacrificial givers.”
(Episcopal Church of the USA)

Teaching and Training

With the enthusiastic response of people to the Gospel, churches have realised that they need to equip individuals and groups for discipleship.  Much effort has been expended on empowering the laity, women as well as men, youth in addition to the elders.  For some churches, this has meant utilising previously untapped resources!

There was a new drive to include evangelism and mission into the curricula of many seminaries and theological colleges.  In the USA, representatives appointed by 11 deans meet annually as the Seminary Consultation on Mission to discuss progress in this regard. Theological education by extension grew, as did continuing education opportunities.  Interestingly, Uganda’s House of Bishops decided to abandon “crash courses” (six months at Bible school) in favour of lengthier seminary training, recognising that pastors required special leadership skills.  In Sabah, there is a growing movement to do on-the-job training, sandwiching courses so as not to “lock up” eager young persons for three or four years before they could answer God’s call.

“The increase in the number of persons participating in our lay theological training program is testimony to the awareness of the clergy and people alike of the necessity to have shared ministry engaged in God’s mission in our Caribbean context.” (Church of the Province of West Indies)

Evangelism as a Process

One thought emerging from the Decade is that evangelism takes place as a process. There have been many reports of the catechetical value of courses being offered by Alpha, Emmaus, Cursillo and local initiatives. These all provide a community group within which people can explore the Christian faith, often over a meal.

Evangelism is a process with certain crystallising moments along the way. Thus process and event work together.” (Church of England)

Multiplication and Expansion

More people have meant more congregations, in certain regions at least, leading to the creation of new dioceses.  Some provinces, such as Nigeria and Sudan, have experienced explosive growth.  This caused Anglicans to recognise afresh the role that persecution and oppression plays in the growth of Christianity, especially in Islamic countries or under authoritarian regimes.

However, exciting new growth has brought new challenges – the need for more churches, more trained leaders, and finances to meet the demands.  The need for salaries, housing, church buildings, vehicles, and other equipment puts tremendous pressure on the leadership of the church. 

“We have started over ten parishes in the past decade, and we are looking at starting one or two dioceses in the near future. We are very keen in our endeavours..” (Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui)


There is evidence that new enthusiasm about the church has led people to increase their giving of time, talent and treasure.  In places, new teaching and commitment have led to increased tithing.  People seem to have a clearer understanding of the role they all play in the Christian community and the work of the Gospel.  They give more time to prayer, Bible study, meetings, outreach, and visiting – all in all, sharing more deeply in the life of discipleship.

In 1994 we embarked as a Diocese on the RENEW process, which has helped many parishes to grow and become financially viable. The foundations are laid for mission as we enter the new millennium.” (Diocese of Klerksdorp, Church of the Province of Southern Africa)

New Relationships

A number of events throughout the Decade have brought people together, leading to new friendships as well as new understandings.  Visiting and networking has increased at provincial, diocesan and individual parish levels. This has led to a broadened sharing of gifts, a sharing of the rich diversity of Anglicanism. The bonds of affection that distinguish our Communion have been strengthened, despite differences of opinion on certain social issues.

“We have learned the importance of being outward-looking rather than inward, proactive rather than reactive.” (Diocese of  Bendigo, Anglican Church of Australia)

A New Unity

Many have discovered that the work of evangelism means not only crossing boundaries, but also building bridges. Within the church, working to spread the good news has helped bring Anglicans together. People have learned that different situations require different models, and that all are complementary to fulfilling God’s mission.

Within our own region, we will be considering new initiatives in urban evangelism, inter-diocesan co-operation in ‘frontier areas’, youth evangelism, cross-cultural evangelism, and church growth among indigenous communities. As a contribution outside the Southern Cone, we have accepted an invitation from the Iglesia España Reformada Episcopal to send an evangelistic team to Spain in the year 2000.” (Iglesia Anglicana del Cono Sur de America)

This is not only an Anglican matter: There are reports of improved ecumenical relationships or ecumenical evangelistic ventures as well. The remarkable new enthusiasm of Anglicans sparked other Christian communities to evangelism initiatives of their own. In fact, churches occasionally worked together in planning crusades.

In Uganda, for example, the Pentecostal churches had previously called the Anglican church a “dead” church and urged people to abandon it. Thus, they increased their own following.  But with the advent of the Decade of Evangelism and the fire of the Holy Spirit that came with it, many were drawn back into the Anglican Church.  The Pentecostals stopped preaching against the Anglicans, and began to work with them to preach the Gospel.

The Anglican Communion Office and the decade

Although the Decade of Evangelism was meant to involve every entity within the Anglican Communion, responsibility was given to the Anglican Communion Office in London to carry out various preparatory and programmatic exercises.

The time from the 1988 Lambeth Conference to the launching of the Decade in January 1991 was designated as a time of planning and preparation. Lambeth referred the Decade to the ACC, and ACC referred it to MISAG II.  The Revd Martin Mbwana, then Director of Mission and Social Issues, was staff to the group but sadly fell terminally ill.  The Primates, meeting in Cyprus in 1989, offered very useful guidelines for the Decade and urged provinces to gather statements, stories, strategies, and experiences for sharing.  They also requested all dioceses, parishes and religious communities to engage in prayer for the Decade.

The Revd Canon Dr Robert W. Renouf was seconded to the Anglican Communion Office from the Episcopal Church in the USA, to serve as adviser to the Decade, beginning in 1989. A logo for the Decade was created, and the office began soliciting original prayers from throughout the Communion..  These were published in a series of prayer cards and mailed out to 400 Anglican religious communities and orders; all primates, bishops, and provincial secretaries; theological colleges, seminaries and schools; mission agencies, and subscribers to Anglican Information.

Also circulated with the Prayer Cards was a newsletter, Sharings, offering stories, strategies, statements and experiences in evangelism from around the Communion. Work began on the video, On The Move with Christ, under the direction of the Revd Dr Robert T. Browne of the USA, showing mission and evangelism being practised throughout the Communion.  Dr Browne subsequently produced another marvellous tool for the Communion, called The Many Faces of Anglicanism.

Meanwhile, ACC-8 and the leadership of the Communion generally, were urged to reflect on the reports of MISAG I and MISAG II (Giving Mission Its Proper Place and Renew Our Vision in Mission, respectively) as well as the report of the Mission and Ministry Section of the 1988 Lambeth Conference, entitled The Truth Shall Make You Free.  The ACC offered assistance and encouragement to the provinces in the preparatory phase.  

In 1991, MISAG II published Renew Our Vision in Evangelism: A Study Guide for the Decade of Evangelism.  It offered stories from throughout the Communion, with scripture passages and discussion questions, to help people reflect. Another book, By Word and Deed: Sharing the Good News through Mission, was well under way, with various authors offering contextual models for evangelism and mission.

The Decade Office reported that the list of print, audio-visual and people resources was growing, and a directory of religious orders and communities was being prepared.  In a status report for the Joint Meeting of the Primates and the ACC Standing Committees in 1991, Canon Renouf noted that the provinces had been surveyed and a major problem had been identified – “the need for mission training of laity and clergy… and the development of organisational structures and strategies to support the major shift to mission.”  The survey of MISAG II to theological students and colleges also revealed the need to include mission and evangelism training in the curriculum.

That year, the ACC appointed the Revd Canon Dr Cyril Okorocha as Director of Mission and Evangelism for the Anglican Communion. He soon embarked on an extensive travel programme, accepting invitations from provinces and dioceses to speak, teach, and preach. He participated in launching Decade programmes on provincial and diocesan levels, facilitated training programmes in mission and evangelism for clergy and lay people, helped organise a variety of meetings and conferences, and generally sought to animate evangelism campaigns throughout the Communion.

In 1993, the Joint Standing Committees meeting in Cape Town accepted the MISAG II recommendation that the Anglican Communion have a standing commission on mission and evangelism. They named it MISSIO and asked the primates to appoint regional representatives. The first meeting was held in November 1994.  One of the many tasks MISSIO was given by the Primates, the Joint Standing Committees, and the Anglican Consultative Council, was the responsibility to track the Decade. Through its members and the various consultants and staff of the Anglican Communion Office, MISSIO has encouraged, resourced, and monitored the effort in a variety of ways.

Meanwhile, Dr Okorocha was working with an extensive international team to organise the Mid-Decade Review of Evangelism requested by ACC-9.  Named Global Conference on Dynamic Evangelism Beyond 2000 (G-CODE 2000), this important conference was held in Kanuga, North Carolina, USA in September 1995. Its key findings are included in Appendix C.

After the conference, Dr. Okorocha gathered the rich input into a book called, The Cutting Edge of Mission..  The stirring speeches, regional presentations, group reports, resolutions and other findings are all there. But the joyful nature of the event can only be glimpsed. The primary lesson of the event was the importance of being together. It was the largest and most diverse gathering of Anglicans since the Toronto Congress in 1963, and strengthened the conviction of many that the model of large gatherings is worth continuing.

The conference was meant to evaluate progress in the movement from maintenance to mission, but it also gave new impetus to the Decade. There was a surge of activity throughout the Communion, resulting from general inspiration, new relationships, and spiritual strengthening.

The two South-to-South Conferences deserve mention, because they occurred during the Decade, occupied a great deal of time and energy in the mission and evangelism office, and undoubtedly influenced the activities and achievements being discussed. They had their roots in work done by the Mission Agencies Working Group and the Mission Issues and Strategy Advisory Group, and were carried forward by MISSIO. The first Anglican Encounter in the South took place in Nairobi in January 1994; the second in Kuala Lumpur in February 1997. Evangelism, mission, and the role and interpretation of scripture were key topics at both. These gatherings of Anglicans from the Two-Thirds World have had an important impact on the Communion. The statements issued from both conferences, Trumpets from the South, were wake-up calls from the regions where Anglicanism is growing most rapidly.

Dr Okorocha’s contract expired at the end of 1997. The Joint Standing Committees recommended that the outcomes of the Lambeth Conference be evaluated, and the overall priorities of the Anglican Communion Office be assessed, before any new staff members were chosen.
During 1998 and 1999, Miss Marjorie Murphy, secretary for the office for the past 11 years, has continued to gather resources, track activities, keep in touch with mission and evangelism co-ordinators, and respond to requests for information.  During the same time period, another survey of the provinces has been conducted in an attempt to evaluate achievements, lessons learned, challenges for the future. 

The following questions were included in the survey:

  • Give examples of ways the challenge to “shift from maintenance to mission” has affected your Province/Diocese.
  • What are the major factors influencing the success/failure/indifference of the Decade in a given situation?
  • What are the most important lessons learned in your Province/Diocese during the Decade?
  • What changes, if any, are planned (present and future) in the training of clergy/laity for the mission of the Church?
  • What steps is your Province/Diocese planning for mission and evangelism as we move into the next millennium?

The survey responses continue to be received and collated in the Mission and Evangelism Office, and will be available from there. Analysis of this raw material is an important next step for the next Mission Commission.

Throughout the Decade, prayers have been gathered from every part of the Communion. Publication of these would provide rich blessing for all Anglicans, and MISSIO recommends that this be done. Resource lists have been expanded, including Internet web sites, and a list of people-skills available throughout the Communion has reached impressive proportions. Thanks for all this work goes to Marjorie Murphy, who also maintains the list of known provincial and diocesan mission and evangelism co-ordinators.

In summary, the mission and evangelism staff assisted the Anglican Communion Office as it implemented the initiatives of the various official structures of the Communion – namely, the Anglican Consultative Council, the Primates, the Joint Standing Committees, and the Lambeth Conference. For all these bodies, the proclamation of a Decade of Evangelism provided the obligation to keep the goals ever before us. 

For the way forward

At the time of MISSIO’s final meeting, the Decade of Evangelism was still in progress.  Many voices from around the Communion say that the Decade has added great momentum to the on going witness of Anglicans world-wide which will continue beyond the official end of the Decade.

Although not in a position to make a definitive assessment of the impact of the Decade of Evangelism, MISSIO does make some suggestions arising from its preliminary evaluation. Some trends are clear, and some common themes deserve further reflection or action. In time, we believe, it would be valuable to do a comprehensive analysis of the ways in which the Decade of Evangelism has (or has not) been received and implemented in the very diverse parts of our Communion.  We recommend that this task to be undertaken by the staff of the Anglican Communion Office over the next two or three years.


  • Throughout the Communion, keep the evangelism momentum in a high profile in the church’s mission, from the Primates’ Meeting to the ACC and all synodical structures.
  • Help the Anglican Communion Office keep its list of potential resources up to date.
  • Urge the appointment of a full-time, senior-level Mission and Evangelism staff person in the Anglican Communion Office to provide leadership and co-ordinate communication among the Provinces.
  • Continue leadership training of both men and women for effective work in mission and evangelism.
  • Encourage provinces and dioceses to make the best use of their internal resources, and not look only for external resources to carry out programs.
  • Revive and strengthen the catechumenal process in congregations and small groups. The Diocese of Sabah reports its most dramatic growth in those parishes using the cell church model, where “dynamic, enabling groups of 10 or 15 become caring, evangelistic groups”.
  • Affirm the effective utilisation of every culture in the process of evangelism, whether in local congregations or internationally, throughout the Communion.
  • Keep a clear focus on the Triune God, so as not to be trapped in a shallow proclamation. Emphasising only one aspect of the Trinity will limit people’s understanding of the Gospel and thus will inhibit transformation.
  • Stand with and encourage the persecuted churches and those torn with wars, where proclamation is not allowed and evangelism is forbidden by the nation. Continually apply great caution and sensitivity with regard to such situations.
  • In the words of Raymond Fung, consultant to the 1995 G-CODE conference: “Don’t marginalise evangelism…. Don’t overload it…. Don’t domesticate it…. Articulate it!” 4


Two major areas of the impact of the Decade expressed throughout the Communion were; the added momentum to the witness of the Church, the shift from maintenance to mission is already evident in the Churches around the Communion and secondly the increase of the number of persons participating in mission and evangelism training as well as in theology both among the lay people and the clergy.  MISSIO recommends therefore:

  • that the provinces and dioceses of the Communion evaluate the lessons learnt during the Decade in their situation in order to continue and build on the momentum the Decade has achieved and to keep evangelism as a high profile in the church’s mission.
  • that in particular the provinces, dioceses and parishes develop and expand appropriate training to equip individuals and congregations for effective work in mission and evangelism

Questions for reflection and discussion

  1. How did your Province (diocese, parish, agency) respond to the call for a Decade of Evangelism? What factors shaped that response (e.g. past experiences of evangelism, your socio-political context, your church’s identity or ethos)?
  2. How did your Province (diocese, parish, agency) understand “evangelism” at the start of the Decade? Has it changed since then? If so, in what ways?
  3. How do you see evangelism relating to the wider task of mission, as this Report has expressed it? (See pp.18-20, The Five Marks of Mission.)
  4. Who, in your context, have been (or are now) the primary agents of evangelism?
  5. What forms of training (if any) in evangelism have been offered in your setting? What was found to be effective, and what was less helpful?
  6. To what extent has the Decade of Evangelism had an impact on other dimensions of local church life, such as worship, patterns of ministry, theological education, or social action?
  7. What was the role of the Province or the dioceses in guiding, shaping and resourcing parishes for evangelism? Could this role have been improved? If so, how?
  8. What styles or practices of evangelism did you find most effective in your context? (Examples might be friendship evangelism, revival services, house groups, neighbourhood visiting, large rallies, ecumenical ventures, liturgical evangelism, enquirers’ groups, catechumenal groups, using the mass media and publications.) How might you build on them?
  9. If you were to start the Decade of Evangelism again, what would you do differently? What would you do the same?
  10. Networks of people with common interests strengthen all aspects of the church, international as well as local. Do we help or hinder such voluntary associations in our regions?
  11. Do we cultivate a spirit of welcome and invitation in our churches? Churches that are perceived to be genuine will draw people who are seeking God into their fold, and will become companions to them on the journey of faith.
  12. The Anglican Communion affirms that it is a comprehensive church. Do we celebrate the rich diversity of our Christian community? Have we isolated ourselves from our neighbours? Or are we open to receiving those who are different from us?

1. Report of the Primates’ Meeting, Cyprus, 1989, Appendix D 2a.

2. The Cutting Edge of Mission: Report on the Mid-point Review of the Decade of Evangelism, p.130.

3. Address to Church of England Congress on Evangelism, March 1999.

4. The Cutting Edge of Mission, pp.145-146.