The American Society of Missiology’s 2021 Annual Meeting will focus on the theme ‘Hybridity in Mission: Mixed and Multiple Identities in the Missio Dei.’  The conference, June 18-19, will be held via Zoom because of the coronavirus pandemic, following the cancellation of the group’s 2020 conference for the same reason.

Here’s the theme description:

Hybridity, for present purposes, is broadly understood as the bringing and holding together of difference and multiplicity.  It can describe mission workers, the people and places where mission is implemented, and the theories, goals and methods of mission.

Christian mission has often been assumed to be an endeavor carried out by people going from one particular place and group, to people in another particular place and group, with certain well-conceived and well-defined means and ends in mind.  In reality, however, mission can be a hybrid in a variety of ways.  Missionaries may have their origins in more than one community and locale, go to places that are marked by profound internal diversity, and combine (with differing degrees of facility) distinct – even competing – mission ideologies, goals and practices.  The person and missions of the apostle Paul provide good examples of such hybridity.

Hybridity results in various expressions of friction and fusion, of differentiation and combination of contrasting elements in the total mission endeavor.  In addition, this condition of hybridity is often characterized by its own unique forms of vulnerability and pain, of joy and beauty.

The 2021 annual meeting of the American Society of Missiology will explore various ways in which hybridity marks and permeates Christian mission, and how it shapes and influences the total mission endeavor.  It shall pay careful attention to new avenues of mission that are opened up through hybridity broadly conceived, how other avenues are closed off, and how multiple and complex identities entail distinct experiences of suffering and satisfaction.

My own resonance with the theme is in relation to my understanding of the centrality of difference in an understanding of mission.  As some readers will know, I define Christian mission as the activity of sending and being sent, by God and by communities, to bear witness in word and deed across significant boundaries of human social experience to the reconciling action of God in Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Inclusion of the criterion of crossing boundaries means that when Christians are reaching out beyond who and where they are as communities to encounter and form community with people who are different from themselves – that is when they are distinctively on mission, as distinguished from other expressions of ministry.  In short, mission is ministry in the dimension of difference. 

Where the term hybrid may be helpful is in describing the forms of Christian faith and practice that come into being as Christian gospel is appropriated and transformed in its encounter with culture and religious tradition.  That model of appropriation and transformation is what I use in analyzing how, for instance, Shona people in Zimbabwe appropriated the Christian gospel and transformed it in powerful ways along the lines of their particular receptivity to spirit inspiration and how, conversely, they appropriated their practice of ancestral spirit possession and transformed it into an authentically Christian expression through the Holy Spirit.  (See my book Transfigured Night: Mission and Culture in Zimbabwe’s Vigil Movement.) 

Getting back to the conference title, in my mission scholarship I avoid using the Latin term missio Dei in favor of vernacular versions – in English is simply ‘the mission of God.’  Using the Latin term is unnecessarily obscure and alienating for people who never studied Latin.  Using the vernacular opens up the discussion to people who are not professional missiologists and avoids the tendency of scholars to assign an overly technical meaning to a term, simply by virtue of it being in a foreign language.

The importance of the vernacular was highlighted for me at a mission conference of the Diocese of Amritsar (Church of North India) I attended at Dalhousie in the Himalayas when one activist declared to the group that for him mission mean that ‘Hum bahar jaienge!’, meaning, ‘We will go outside!’ that is, outside the confines of existing Christian communities.  Outside, beyond, crossing boundaries – that is definitional for mission.   

I’ve been asked to present in two settings.  On Friday, June 18, I’ll be part of a panel assessing the recently issued 3rd edition of the World Christian Encyclopedia, published by the University of Edinburgh Press.  Colleagues Todd Johnson and Gina Zurlo of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary are the authors, continuing the groundbreaking and comprehensive religious demography project begun by David Barrett as an Anglican missionary in Kenya in the 1970s.  Including comprehensive religious data on every country in the world, the encyclopedia is the most authoritative compendium of religious and Christian data in existence.

‘Mission, Persecution, Martyrdom and Meaning-Making: Instructional Strategies and Methods of Interpretation’ is the theme of the closely linked Association of Professors of Mission annual meeting on Thursday, June 17. I’ll present in a panel on persecution, my topic concerning Pakistan.  As many know, I was principal of Edwardes College, Peshawar, 2011-14, and had personal experience of the pressure under which Christians live and work in that Muslim-majority nation that is afflicted with religious extremism. It’s good that persecution and how to address it academically is receiving such focus in the missiological community. 

“I’m encouraged by the joy we have in our mission relationships,” Janice Price said of the current state of mission in the Church of England and in the Anglican Communion.  “That makes a difference.  Joy is no incidental thing.  It’s at the heart of it.  I realized this early on when I saw we needed to change the nature of the mission conversation – from needs and giving to developing friendship.” 

Janice was reflecting on her 12 years of ministry as World Mission Adviser to the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England (CofE), service that ended in April of this year.  Based at Church House, the London central office of the CofE, Janice advised the church about global mission with reports and recommendations and through coordinating the Partnership for World Mission, the church’s network of agencies and dioceses involved in global mission.   

“My priorities were helping people to grow into what it means to be cross-cultural Christians, and realize the importance of listening to our partners,” Janice said.  “My attempt was to distill what was being said in the wider mission community and also to push it forward.  Someone said to me, ‘You were always pushing us to think about things differently.’  I was glad about that because we all need to be thinking differently.”

I wanted to hear Janice reflect about her work because Anglican world mission originated in the Church of England and because the Partnership for World Mission (PWM) is a network similar to the Global Episcopal Mission Network (GEMN) in the Episcopal Church.  I’ve been to several of PWM’s annual conferences, along with other GEMN members, and I’ve been impressed by the enthusiasm and insight of the mission activists gathered there.

Dismantling colonialism as main job

“I saw as my main job the dismantling of colonialism,” Janice said.  “What I found was that colonialism is hugely resilient in the British mindset.  A lot of it is about money: the desire people have to give lots of money but leave the relationship there and not to go further with their partners. 

“In one diocese all the stories they were telling me were about all the money they had raised and sent to Kenya.  So I said to them, ‘So you’ll be visiting them soon?’  ‘No,’ they said, ‘we had no idea that visiting was part of this.’  Their sense was that what people need is our money, not our friendship, that everyone is poor and don’t have enough to eat.  ‘You have an arms-length relationship,’ I told them, ‘but you’re giving into a highly relational culture.’  They were surprised, even horrified, that it might be okay to spend money to buy an airfare and go and see their friends.’  So colonialism mutates very quickly and is very resilient at its core.” 

Publication of World-Shaped Mission

As world mission adviser to the Archbishops’ Council, Janice’s initial task was to develop a 25-year mission strategy for the CofE.  World-Shaped Mission: Reimagining Mission Today, published in 2012, was the outcome.  “It was well received,” said Janice.  “Conservatives didn’t find it conservative enough: not enough about Bible.  Liberals found it not liberal enough.  But in the middle we got it about right.  One of the most difficult issues was the relationship between mission and development.  God’s mission is incarnational, so it is both material and spiritual.”  This was one of the discussion points in the wide-ranging consultations that led up to the book, which Janice authored. 

“You can describe the message of World-Shaped Mission as recognizing the humanity of the other,” Janice said.  “Mission is not arms-length.  It’s about the humanity of the other, because God’s Spirit is always leading us to recognize the humanity of the other and the sanctity of creation.”

The concept of world-shaped mission was applied to the Partnership for World Mission itself: “When we began looking at the issues of the world, then more people began to come to the PWM conferences, for instance, climate change and Brexit.  But we will always be tempted to think of our mission partnerships instead of God’s mission in the big picture that our partnerships are meant to address.  We’ll always be tempted to think of the mission of the church rather than God’s mission.” 

World-Shaped Mission was adopted by General Synod, the CofE’s equivalent of the Episcopal Church’s General Convention, in July 2012, and it remains the last statement that the CofE has made on world mission.  It is available from Church House Publishing and from Amazon.  

Perspective shift from needs to friendship

Janice’s other major program focus was the research project that resulted in the 24-page report issued in 2017, “The Nature and Extent of Companion Links in the Anglican Communion,” available on the Church of England website.  Links such as companion diocese relationships began percolating after the 1963 Anglican Congress that highlighted the theme, Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ (MRI), and they gained momentum with the 1973 Anglican Consultative Council’s emphasis on Partnership in Mission (PIM).  But in the intervening 50 years little research was done about what had become a major expression of global mission around the communion.

Supervised by the late Dr. Janette Davies of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, Janice adopted a case study research approach that focused on three companion links, those between the Diocese of Bath and Wells and the Anglican Church of Zambia, the Diocese of Chelmsford and five dioceses in Kenya, and the Diocese of Liverpool and the Diocese of Virginia.  Analysis based on group meetings and interviews with people in each setting developed conclusions centered on discipleship, friendship and finance. 

“What links gave dioceses was a sense of relationship,” said Janice.  “One of the research conclusions was that links should focus on friendship and relationship.  But there were differing concepts of discipleship.  And in the area of giving, Western dioceses weren’t allowing African dioceses to give back to them, which resulted in unequal relationships that undermined the dignity of the other partner.  Westerners need to learn how to receive.”

The weakness of the common Western understanding of mission as need-based was highlighted during a discussion of the Liverpool-Virginia link: “The Americans were saying,

‘We don’t know why we have the link with Liverpool, because they don’t need anything from us.’  But the mission relationship isn’t about raising money or ‘doing things for them.’  Friendship offers flourishing to all parties and to God’s mission.”

Janice noted that there was tension between the mission agencies and the diocesan companion Links over fundraising.  “But understanding has developed that recognizes their different roles and looks to build a more symbiotic relationship,” she said.  “This is good news for international partners as well as for the agencies and links.”

Central focus on relationship

“What encourages you now about the world mission scene?” I asked.  “Relationships are being developed,” Janice replied. “Relationships are becoming much more the focus.  There are different narratives that are being expressed.  We’ve been moving much more into discerning God’s mission rather than looking at the mission of the church.  We’re thinking bigger about God’s mission.  In the past we talked missio Dei [mission of God], but often we were really thinking of the mission of the church.” 

“At one time longterm mission meant longterm missionary,” Janice noted, “but what does longterm look like now?  It’s friendship in mission.  It will involve gifts and giving, but it will go beyond that.  Its primary focus will be about friendship for its own sake before God.”  As an example, Janice cited a friendship that has developed between herself and an archdeacon in Malawi.  

To her work as world mission adviser, Janice brought her experience as executive director for global mission in Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, an ecumenical network, 2005-09.  In that context she experienced what had been termed “the effortless arrogance of the Church of England” in relation to other churches, a sense that the CofE emphasized how it was different rather than what it shared in common with other churches.  Janice hopes she was successful in changing that approach in the area of global mission.

The Partnership for World Mission was founded in 1978, and it was coordinated successively by James Anderson, the late Bishop Colin Bennetts, John Clarke and Stephen Lyon.  The role was expanded beyond PWM to advising the whole CofE in order to pull together the strategic vision that became World-Shaped Mission.  Janice’s initial appointment was for three years – but it became 12!

Janice is now focusing on her call to ordained ministry as what the Church of England calls a Distinctive Deacon, which she is pursuing in the Diocese of Southwark, where she will serve in the parish of St. Andrew’s and St. Mark’s, Surbiton.  “I’m looking forward to developing a community-based ministry that is all about mission.”

Financial constraints and other priorities have meant that the position of world mission adviser is not being continued, so now there is no world mission position at Church House.  As a result, PWM will also not benefit from the position, though Carolyn Gilmore is continuing as coordinator for the PWM conference that will be held later this year.  A similar drawdown has occurred at the Anglican Communion Office in London, where the position of mission director has been discontinued with the departure of John Kafwanka, who is now pastoring a parish in England. 

These developments highlight the importance of PWM continuing as a freestanding network of mission activist agencies and dioceses in the CofE, much as GEMN has functioned in the Episcopal Church.  GEMN anticipates continued communication and collaboration with PWM in the coming months and years. 

This article also appears on the website of the Global Episcopal Mission Network (www.gemn.org).

I’m happy to report that my article, ‘Evangelism? Tackling the Roots of Episcopalians’ Reluctance,’ was published by The Living Church on its Covenant weblog on April 12.  Here’s the link.

Late addition: The Congregation of St. Saviour at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City has invited me to a conversation about the article during their coffee hour on Pentecost, May 23, at noon, and Vicar Steven Lee has said that people from beyond the Cathedral are welcome!  So feel free to join the St. Saviour folks on Zoom at this link.   

The article contrasts the joyful zeal of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, who has made evangelism a centerpiece of his leadership, with the continuing undertow of hesitancy, even aversion, that many Episcopalians have about saying anything verbally about their faith outside the confines of their church walls. 

The essay identifies and critiques nine key elements of that hesitancy, declaring that reluctance about verbal proclamation is:

            • linguistically nonsensical,

            • historically amnesiac,

            • genealogically disrespectful,

            • liturgically inconsistent,

            • cognitively incoherent,

            • culturally conformist,

            • ecclesially establishmentarian,

            • inter-religiously isolationist and

            • missionally incomplete.

Obviously this critique is provocative, and I hope it stimulates vigorous discussion. 

The one revision I would make is in the third critique.  True, dismissing the verbal witness that brought many of our forebears to faith and that they in turn offered to others is genealogically disrespectful.  More important from an ethical standpoint, it is generationally ungrateful.  One can understand how someone brought up in the faith but who then discards it in favor of atheism would dismiss the witness of his/her parents, grandparents or great-grandparents.  But if one is a believing Christian, discounting the witness of the previous generations from whom one inherited the faith is simply ungrateful.  None of us wants to be an ingrate, do we? We should be thankful that our forebears handed the faith on to us.

The essay arose out of a talk I was asked to give on the promise in the Baptismal Covenant – ‘Will you proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ?’ – at St. John’s Church in McLean, Virginia, at the invitation of then rector Ed Miller.  I’ve continued to mull and elaborate the issues in my role as convener of Green Mountain Witness, the evangelism initiative of the Diocese of Vermont.

Registration has opened for the annual Mission Formation Program to be held in four online sessions, Monday-Thursday, May 24-27.  The online format that was so successful in 2020 is being offered again this year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the Global Episcopal Mission Network (GEMN) has announced.  

“We are so pleased to offer this program online again this year, in order to make it accessible to as many people as possible,” said the Rev. Holly Hartman, program coordinator.  “We’re looking forward to another year of learning,  formation, and networking with people passionate to be more involved in God’s global mission.”

Registration for the program is accessible here. The program dates and times via the Zoom platform are: Monday, May 24, 7-9 p.m.; Tuesday, May 25, 10 a.m.-12 noon; Wednesday, May 26; 12 noon-2pm; and Thursday, May 27, 7-9 p.m.  The varied times are designed to accommodate individual preferences and styles – some people learn best in the morning, others in the evening, and so on.   

Held by GEMN for over 20 years, the Mission Formation Program gives people involved in parish and diocesan global mission initiatives the opportunity to explore biblical foundations, mission theology and history, cultural and inter-religious sensitivity, discernment, short-term and long-term mission standards, companionship in mission, mission team and project development, leadership styles and group process. It is the only such program offered churchwide for Episcopalians and Anglicans beyond the Episcopal Church. 

Ordinarily offered in conjunction with the annual Global Mission Conference, which this year was held online on Creation Care, April 22-24, the Mission Formation Program is a two-year process in which participants carry out a project between the first and second years.  A number of participants are returning from 2020, and registration is open for new first-year participants.  

Led by Coordinator Holly Hartman, global mission coordinator in the Diocese of Massachusetts, the Mission Formation Team that will conduct the 2020 program includes Dr. Martha Alexander, long active in the global outreach of the Diocese of North Carolina; the Rev. Jean Beniste, a former missionary from Haiti to the Dominican Republic and now rector of Christ Church, Waukegan, Illinois; the Rev. Jeffrey Bower, chair of the global mission commission in the Diocese of Indianapolis and associate rector of St. Paul’s Church, Indianapolis; and the Rev. Titus Presler, Th.D., missiologist, president of GEMN and a former missionary in Zimbabwe and Pakistan.  

“Follow your heartbreak in the climate crisis: that is where you are being anointed, that is where the Holy Spirit is touching you.”  So advised the Rev. Canon Rachel Mash of Green Anglicans, the Creation Care initiative in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.  She was speaking at the 2021 Global Mission Conference held online April 22-24 on the theme, “Earthkeeping: Creation Care in Global Mission.”

After detailing destructive effects of the planetary crisis of climate change, Mash declared that an authentic theology of mission insists that God seeks to restore and heal creation.  She pointed out that in the Greek of the New Testament “the world” that John 3:16 says God loved is the “cosmos,” which means the entire created order, not only the human community.  “The Fall” that Genesis depicts signifies a breakdown between humanity and God, between humans with one another, and between humans and the land, but “Jesus restores all three relationships,” she said.

The annual conference sponsored by the Global Episcopal Mission Network (GEMN) drew over 150 registrants from the United States, Brazil, Britain, Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Kenya, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa and Tanzania.  Held on Zoom, the conference was free, with donations encouraged, and English-Spanish translation was provided.

Mash showed a placard carried by a young person at a climate change protest: “You’ll die of old age.  Your children will die of climate change.” 

Mash suggested three types of response to the climate crisis: Mitigation works locally to reduce, for instance, meat consumption, plastics and use of fossil fuels.  Adaptation encourages practices such as tree planting, organic farming and use of such devices as “rocket stoves” that use little wood.  Advocacy speaks up for those who have no voice, lobbies for fossil fuel divestment and supports politicians who support creation care. 

“Vive tu fe naturalmente” – Live your faith naturally – was the creation-care motto shared by Bishop Orlando Gomez of the Diocese of Costa Rica, meaning to live in harmony with creation.  When celebrating its 150th anniversary, the diocese, which is a member of Iglesia Anglicana de la Región Central de América, sought to discern its role as a small church in the Central American country.  It resonated with the fifth of the Anglican Five Marks of Mission: “To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life ofthe earth.”  In addition to promoting Costa Rica’s eco-diversity, the diocese welcomes mission teams from Episcopal dioceses, promotes solar panels and supports sustainable agriculture on diocesan land.

“What will help us move beyond panic and despair and help us throw ourselves into the struggle for climate justice?” asked plenary speaker the Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, creation care missioner for the dioceses of Massachusetts and Western Massachusetts.  She identified three stages of heart transformation in a creation care spirituality.  With awakened hearts we learn to see ourselves, one another and all creation with the eyes of God’s love.  With broken hearts we go to the cross of Jesus, where we allow ourselves to feel grief and anger for all we have lost, and where we meet the infinite love of God in Christ.  With radiant hearts we then share in God’s mission of reconciliation and commit ourselves to care for Earth.

Conferees experienced the broken heart as the Rev. Leon Sampson of the Diocese of Navajoland described the environmental dispossession and alienation wrought among First Nations by systematic land theft, forced relocations and physical and cultural genocide imposed by White settlers and government policies in the United States.  Churches colluded with governmental colonialism through the boarding schools that abused Native American children and banned indigenous languages and cultural practices.  Sampson highlighted ways in which the Navajos are implementing the Anglican Communion’s Five Marks of Mission, including creation care.  “We are the only denomination that has repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery,” he said as he commended that action of the 2009 General Convention.

An exultant and encouraging final plenary was offered by the Rev. Melanie Mullen, director of reconciliation, justice and creation care for the Episcopal Church, who highlighted the intersectionality of creation care with justice in relation to poverty, race and Black Lives Matter.  “People are not suffering in silos but in all these various ways,” she said.  “These are the core tasks of all mission: Tell God’s truth, do justice, do the work of healing.”

Mullen cited the biblical story of the prophet Elisha using salt from people’s homes to make “bad” water wholesome (2 Kings 2:19-22) to illustrate Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD), a mission approach that insists that building on people’s indigenous resources is crucial to fruitful mission.  “You in global mission are asking us to rethink what it means to be partners together,” she said as she emphasized that friendship is central.

Noting that 93 percent of Episcopalians say their commitment to climate justice arises out of their faith, Mullen said, “We’re passionate about doing God’s will.  We’re doing it because of Jesus!  So this walk makes such good sense to us.  We get it!  This is our time, our moment!”

Workshop topics at the conference included the tree-planting and carbon-offset partnership between the Diocese of Olympia and the Diocese of Southern Philippines, with the Rev. Jeff Gill and Dr. David Hansen; creation care in Haiti, with DFMS missionaries Dr. Janet and the Rev. Donnell O’Flynn; mission vocation discernment, with Mission Personnel Officer Elizabeth Boe; and best practices for mission teams, with Bill Kunkle from experience in the Dominican Republic. 

Five-minute “Mission Spotlights” during the conference highlighted the work of Stand With Iraqi Christians, Five Talents, Episcopal Relief and Development, Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Cuba, GEMN’s Mission Formation Program, the Compass Rose Society, and the Global Mission Digital Toolkit collaboration between GEMN, the Office of Global Partnerships and the Standing Commission on World Mission.  The Diocese of Iowa offered a moving tribute to the late Ellinah Wamukoya, the “Green Bishop” of Swaziland and the first woman to be ordained an Anglican bishop in Africa.

Pre-recorded worship was offered by the Diocese of the Dominican Republic; St. Nicholas Seminary in Cape Coast, Ghana, with Bishop Victor Atta-Baffoe; and St. Thomas Theological College in Karachi, Pakistan, with Bishop Mano Rumalshah. 

In addition to hearing reports on GEMN’s work, the network’s annual meeting congratulated the Rev. Holly Hartman of the Diocese of Massachusetts as she concluded her service on the Board of Directors; commended retired executive director Karen Hotte for seven years of outstanding service; and welcomed Molly O’Brien as interim coordinator.  The meeting re-elected the Rev. Jean Beniste of the Diocese of Chicago, the Rev. Jaime Briceño of Bexley Seabury Seminary, and the Rev. Dr. Grace Burton-Edwards of the Diocese of Atlanta to the Board; and elected the Rev. Meredith Crigler of the Diocese of Texas to a first three-year term. 

Conference greetings were offered by GEMN President the Rev. Dr. Titus Presler of the Diocese of Vermont and Bridges to Pakistan, Vice President the Rev. Dr. Grace Burton-Edwards, and Board member the Rev. Maurice Dyer of the Diocese of Pennsylvania, who emceed the conference.

Founded in 1994, GEMN is the freestanding network of dioceses, congregations, mission organizations, individuals and seminaries that catalyzes global mission engagement throughout the Episcopal Church.  

Climate change and ecological degradation constitute the major planetary crisis of our time. How can Christians in global mission engage with the crisis through the Creator God, the Redeeming Christ and the Empowering Spirit?  What can our mission companions around the world teach us about climate justice, and how can we collaborate with them?

The 2021 Global Mission Conference sponsored by the Global Episcopal Mission Network (GEMN) will address these urgent questions under the theme Earthkeeping: Creation Care in Global Mission.  Mission activists from around the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion are encouraged to attend.

This year’s conference will be held online via Zoom on Earth Day – Thursday, April 22 – & the following Friday & Saturday, April 23 & 24. So save the dates!  Each day will have one 3-hour session: 10am-1pm Pacific = 1-4pm Eastern = 6-9pm GMT = 8-11pm pm South Africa. Register here.

Attendance at the conference is by donation.  In other words, there is no fee, yet attendees are encouraged to make a donation as they are able, especially to become a GEMN member.  There will also be opportunity to contribute to ecological justice projects in various parts of the world.

Plenary speakers include:

• Canon Dr. Rachel Mash of Green Anglicans in South Africa and the Anglican Communion Environmental Network will speak on forming mission companionship for climate justice.

• The Rev. Leon Sampson of Navajoland will share how Native American spirituality can inform missional creation care.

• The Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas of Western Massachusetts will explore a theology and spirituality of creation care.

• Bishop Orlando Gomez of Costa Rica will share from the experience of his diocese in caring for the creation and promoting climate justice in Latin America.

• The Rev. Melanie Mullen, director of reconciliation, justice and creation care for the Episcopal Church, will relate creation care to racial justice and global mission. 

Workshops in breakout rooms will include:

• “Repairing the Earth through a Carbon-Offset Partnership,” led by the Rev. Jeff Gill of Olympia, who will present how Olympia and Southern Philippines are collaborating in the Carbon Offset Cooperative Mission.

• “Creation Care in Haiti: What Does That Mean?” led by Janet and the Rev. Donnel O’Flynn, who will discuss opportunities and obstacles from their work as Episcopal Volunteers in Mission in Haiti. – awaiting confirmation

• “Call Waiting? Discerning a Missionary Vocation,” led by Elizabeth Boe, mission personnel officer in the Office of Global Partnerships of the Episcopal Church.

• “Best Practices for Mission Teams,” led by Bill Kunkle, executive director of the Dominican Development Group, who has led over 500 short-term mission trips.

This year’s conference picks up GEMN’s initiative from last year’s Global Mission Conference, which was canceled in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. The experience of successful GEMN online offerings, such as the Mission Formation Program and Mission Thursdays, as well as many online conferences around the church, makes GEMN confident that this conference will ignite and inspire the joy of God’s mission amid the planetary crisis.

With this conference, GEMN will have addressed all three of the Episcopal Churches trio of priorities: Evangelism was the theme of the 2019 Global Mission Conference in the Dominican Republic.  Reconciliation was the theme of the 2017 conference in Alabama.  Creation Care is the third of the priorities. 

Posted by: Titus Presler | January 25, 2021

Global Mission Prayer Cycle is published by GEMN

A Global Mission Prayer Cycle was published by the Global Episcopal Mission Network last week.  It’s posted in the Resources section of the GEMN website.

Designed to lift up before God the global mission work of Episcopalians, the cycle is arranged on a monthly cycle of 30 days.  It briefly features the work of dioceses, congregations, mission organizations and seminaries – altogether over 90 entities, with three or four cited each day.

Global mission work involves many activities, but a primary commitment for all activists must be simply to pray for those engaged in global mission and for our mission companions around the world.  We often say that mission begins with discerning what God is up to.  Well, that discernment must be grounded in prayer.  And prayer for our own engagement is nurtured and inspired by interceding for those who share a commitment to God’s mission of reconciliation throughout the world.

The prayer cycle seeks to be inclusive, but it cannot claim to be comprehensive.  Users who notice an initiative that is missing or see something that needs to be corrected are asked to write to GEMN at: gemn@gemn.org.

Users of the prayer cycle are encouraged to download it your computers and smartphones for ease of daily use.

The image above is the rose window at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. Peter & St. Paul in Washington, D.C.  The progressively more focused exposures suggest the centering and focusing blessing of prayer in our lives. 

Posted by: Titus Presler | January 25, 2021

President’s Report to GEMN membership

Below is my report on the 2020 activities of the Global Episcopal Mission Network that I posted a week ago to the GEMN website.  It may be of interest to those who don’t frequent that site, where, by the way, you can see further details about all the items cited in the report.  

PRESIDENT’S 2020 REPORT TO THE GEMN MEMBERSHIP

January 2021

Greetings to all in the community of the Global Episcopal Mission Network!  I thank God for your vision of the mission of God in the life of the world, your personal participation in that mission, and your dedication to catalyzing others to join the movement of God in the human and planetary community.

This report is usually made at GEMN’s Annual Meeting, which in 2020 was to take place at the Global Mission Conference at Christ Church Cathedral in Indianapolis, April 28-May 1.  The coronavirus pandemic prompted cancellation of the conference, so no annual meeting could be held.  I am therefore offering this report on the GEMN website.

The coronavirus pandemic has made many things unpredictable in the world at large and in the mission world.  I am reporting to you at this specific time, and all comments about the future will likely be conditioned by emerging constraints and possibilities.

One overall observation is that while the pandemic has imposed many constraints on global mission, it has opened up additional avenues of commitment and relationship.  When we are not preoccupied with logistics of travel and projects we are prompted to attend to the nuances of how we interact with our mission companions in other places.  As many mission companions have testified, including those who spoke at Mission Thursdays, global mission has continued throughout the pandemic.  For GEMN, meeting online – as we’ve done in the Mission Formation Program, the Mission Thursdays series, and in the global conference held in late November by the Partnership for World Mission in Britain – has enabled people in widely dispersed places to engage with one another in ways that are often difficult to arrange and finance in person.  Just as church life in general will never be the same, so global mission will be permanently affected by what the pandemic has taught us about how we can interact.

Read More…

The memorial service for the Rev. Canon Sally Suzanne Peterson, 72, missionary of the Episcopal Church and former member of the Board of Directors of the Global Episcopal Mission Network, was held on Friday, 8 January 2021.

With Iowa Bishop Alan Scarfe presiding, the liturgy was held at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Des Moines, Iowa, and was attended electronically via Zoom by friends around the world, including South Africa, where Suzanne served as a missionary; Brechin in Scotland, where the Diocese of Iowa has a companion diocese; and Argentina, where Suzanne’s longtime missionary friends Heidi Schmidt and Monica Vega are serving.

An eloquent and moving homily was offered by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa.  Former Iowa Bishop Christopher Epting assisted in the eucharistic liturgy, in which participants not on site had the opportunity for ‘spiritual communion.’

The service was followed by conversational sharing among the participants, who spoke of Suzanne’s missionary service, her work for peace and justice and for ecumenical relations, and her commitment to personal relationships.

The service can be viewed at https://www.iowaepiscopal.org/.

Suzanne served a three-year term on the GEMN Board, 2015-18, and also served as secretary.  She was elected to a second term in 2018 and attended that fall’s extended Board meeting at Hephzibah House in New York City.  When ill health began taking a toll, she stepped aside from being secretary, a ministry that Christine Mercer of Alabama then filled.  When she did not feel able to complete her second term she resigned prior to the 2019 Annual Meeting.  Jenny Grant of the Office of Global Partnerships was elected to fill her unexpired term.

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How to explore global mission during the coronavirus pandemic is the focus of Mission Thursdays with GEMN, a series of online gatherings convened by the Global Episcopal Mission Network (GEMN) in September for conversation with Episcopal mission activists.

The Zoom gatherings are open to all interested persons, including all Episcopalians and Anglicans around the world.   The next three meetings will take place for an hour at 2 p.m. Eastern on Thursdays, Sept. 10, 17 and 24.  Each will begin with a short presentation, followed by group discussion.

• Sept. 10: “Forming Christians for Mission amid the Pandemic” with the Rev. Holly Hartman, team leader for GEMN’s Mission Formation Program and global mission coordinator for the Diocese of Massachusetts.  Host: the Rev. Dr. Titus Presler, GEMN president, global mission liaison for the Diocese of Vermont and board member of Bridges to Pakistan.

• Sept. 17: “How the Pandemic has Affected Episcopal Church Mission Personnel” with Ms. Elizabeth Boe, director of mission personnel for the Episcopal Church’s Office of Global Partnerships, who coordinates the Young Adult Service Corps and Episcopal Volunteers in Mission.  Host: Titus Presler.

• Sept. 24: “Building on Companions’ Talents during the Pandemic with Mr. Dale Stanton-Hoyle, executive director of Five Talents, an international development organization that helps families living in extreme poverty save, invest and develop small businesses. Host: Ms. Molly O’Brien, GEMN Board secretary and staff member of the Center for Anglican Communion Studies at Virginia Seminary.

Register for Mission Thursdays with GEMN HERE. Once you have registered, instructions with the login information for the Zoom webinar will be sent to the email address you provide upon registration. For questions, please email gemn@gemn.org.

The first gathering, last Thursday, Sept. 3, on “Building Mission Companionship amid the Pandemic” with Mr. Bill Kunkle, GEMN Board member and executive director of the Dominican Development Group, which coordinates links between domestic Episcopal dioceses and the Diocese of the Dominican Republic, and the Rev. Jeff Bower, chair of the Global Mission Commission of the Diocese of Indianapolis.  People from around the church and abroad participated in the conversation hosted by the Rev. Dr. Grace Burton-Edwards, GEMN vice president, member of the Global Mission Commission in the Diocese of Atlanta, and member of the Standing Commission on World Mission.

The Global Episcopal Mission Network is a freestanding network of dioceses, congregations, mission organizations, seminaries and individuals dedicated to inspiring and igniting the joy of God’s mission throughout the church.

 

How to explore global mission during the coronavirus pandemic is the focus of Mission Thursdays with GEMN, a series of four online gatherings in September for conversations with Episcopal mission activists convened by the Global Episcopal Mission Network (GEMN).

The Zoom gatherings are open to all interested persons, including all Episcopalians and Anglicans around the world.   The meetings will occur for an hour at 2 p.m. Eastern on Thursdays, Sept. 3, 10, 17 and 24.  Each will begin with a short presentation, followed by group discussion.

  • Sept. 3: “Building Mission Companionship amid the Pandemic” with Mr. Bill Kunkle, GEMN Board member and executive director of the Dominican Development Group, which coordinates links between domestic Episcopal dioceses and the Diocese of the Dominican Republic, and the Rev. Jeff Bower, chair of the Global Mission Commission of the Diocese of Indianapolis.  Host: the Rev. Dr. Grace Burton-Edwards, GEMN vice president, member of the Global Mission Commission in the Diocese of Atlanta, and member of the Standing Commission on World Mission.

 

  • Sept. 10: “Forming Christians for Mission amid the Pandemic” with the Rev. Holly Hartman, team leader for GEMN’s Mission Formation Program and global mission coordinator for the Diocese of Massachusetts.  Host: the Rev. Dr. Jim Boston, GEMN Board member and chair of the Global Mission Commission of the Diocese of Oregon.

 

  • Sept. 17: “How the Pandemic has Affected Episcopal Church Mission Personnel” with Ms. Elizabeth Boe, director of mission personnel for the Episcopal Church’s Office of Global Partnerships, who coordinates the Young Adult Service Corps and Episcopal Volunteers in Mission.  Host: the Rev. Dr. Titus Presler, GEMN president, global mission liaison for the Diocese of Vermont and board member of Bridges to Pakistan.

 

  • Sept. 24: “Building on Companions’ Talents during the Pandemic with Mr. Dale Stanton-Hoyle, executive director of Five Talents, an international development organization that helps families living in extreme poverty save, invest and develop small businesses. Host: Ms. Molly O’Brien, GEMN Board secretary and staff member of the Center for Anglican Communion Studies at Virginia Seminary.

Register for Mission Thursdays with GEMN HERE. Once you have registered, instructions with the login information for the Zoom webinar will be sent to the email address you provide upon registration. For questions, please email gemn@gemn.org

The Global Episcopal Mission Network is a freestanding network of dioceses, congregations, mission organizations, seminaries and individuals dedicated to inspiring and igniting the joy of God’s mission throughout the church.

 

 

Questing: The Way of Love in Global Mission has been published by the Global Episcopal Mission Network (GEMN) on Amazon for individuals and congregations exploring how to engage God’s mission on a global basis.

Questing builds on the seven steps in the well-known Way of Love of the Jesus Movement – Turn, Learn, Pray, Worship, Bless, Go, and Rest.  It develops how Christians can live out the Way of Love in mission companionships with people of faith across differences of culture, language, ethnicity and religion around the world.

Responding to the constraints imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, Questing sketches ways to engage in world mission both when mission companions are able to gather and when disease, war or civil unrest make in-person encounters difficult or impossible.

“Thankfully, mission is not dependent on physical travel,” said co-author Grace Burton-Edwards.  “Mission is primarily a spiritual journey that calls us to maintain an outward orientation toward neighbors near and far. The pandemic can lead us to focus inward. This resource is an invitation to turn our attention outward and share in God’s work of reconciliation and healing through the church around the world.”

Each session in the seven-week curriculum begins with a compelling story from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean or Latin America.  A Bible study delves into a narrative from the Book of Acts. Mission discussion, prayer suggestions, and avenues of action provide guidance for individuals and study groups seeking to apply their faith globally.

Published online through Amazon, Questing is available in Kindle formats for e-readers and smartphones at a low price of $5.69.  Paperback publication is planned for the fall.

Questing assembles resources from many sources: blogposts from missionaries, reflections by mission activists, perspectives from ecumenical sources, suggestions and prayers from around the Anglican Communion, and more.

Original material in Questing is co-authored by Burton-Edwards and Titus Presler.  Rector of St. Thomas Church in Columbus, Georgia, Burton-Edwards is GEMN’s vice president, a member of the Standing Commission on World Mission and a member of the Global Mission Commission of the Diocese of Atlanta.  A former missionary in Zimbabwe and Pakistan and a widely published missiologist, Presler is president of GEMN and former president of the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas.

The foreword is by Ian Douglas, bishop of the Diocese of Connecticut, a former missionary in Haiti, and a missiologist who long taught at the Episcopal Divinity School.

“People often sense God calling them to engage with the wider world but sometimes they don’t know where to begin,” Presler said.  “Questing will be a valuable and easily accessible resource for individuals, mission committees and congregations.”

This notice has appeared also as a press release on the Episcopal News Service.

Going online for the first time this spring because of the coronavirus pandemic drew a record enrollment to the Mission Formation Program offered by the Global Episcopal Mission Network (GEMN).

“Last year we were delighted to have 14 in the program held at the annual Global Mission Conference in the Dominican Republic,” said program coordinator the Rev. Holly Hartman of the Diocese of Massachusetts, “but this year we had 38 people enroll online, close to three times our highest in-person enrollment!”

Participants came from 19 domestic Episcopal dioceses, plus the dioceses of Dominican Republic, Haiti, Toronto and Dar es Salaam.  There were about equal numbers of men and women, and ages ranged from young adults to the 70s.  Eleven participants were clergy.  Seven participants were returning for the second year of the two-year program.

“We weren’t sure how the program would work online, but it came off well with very few technical glitches,” Hartman said.  Held April 27-May 1, the formation modules were offered in four two-hour segments on the Zoom platform over a week.  “The success of this format means that an online version will be important in the future of the Mission Formation Program,” Hartman said.

Modules offered this year included Biblical Foundations for Mission, Group Process for Mission Leadership, Missional Case Study, History of Anglican and Episcopal Mission, Cultural Sensitivity, Theology of Mission, Best Practices for Short-Term Mission Trips, Developing and Nourishing Mission Teams, Long-Term Mission Service, and Forming and Sustaining Diocesan Mission.

The program asks participants to carry out a fieldwork project between the first and second years.  At the close of the program on May 1, the second-year participants spoke about the projects they completed or had underway, which included: an assessment of mission work in Haiti, a mission conference held in Ohio, a photo essay on mission work in diverse parts of the world, a mission education venture for a parish, and revision of a diocesan mission grants program.

In addition to Hartman, who is global mission coordinator for the Diocese of Massachusetts, the Mission Formation leadership team included Martha Alexander, Ed.D., long active in the global outreach of the Diocese of North Carolina; the Rev. Jean Beniste, former missionary from Haiti to Dominican Republic and now rector of Christ Church, Waukegan, Illinois; the Rev. Jeffrey Bower, chair of the global mission commission in the Diocese of Indianapolis and associate rector of St. Paul’s Church, Indianapolis; and the Rev. Titus Presler, Th.D., missiologist, president of GEMN and former missionary in Zimbabwe and Pakistan.

“As in many sectors of church life, moving this program online has implications for the future work of GEMN, especially as so much education has gone online in the 21st century,” Presler said.  “It’s helpful to meet in person, but the online reach of this year’s program prompts us to move more decisively toward making online encounter a major part of our work.”

The pandemic prompted cancellation of this year’s Global Mission Conference in Indianapolis, where it was to focus on the role of creation care in global mission.  GEMN plans the same theme and location in the spring of 2021, though definite arrangements await the outcome of the pandemic.

Founded in 1994, GEMN is the church’s freestanding network of mission-activist dioceses, organizations, congregations, seminaries and individuals dedicated to “proclaim, inspire and ignite the joy of God’s mission.”

 

 

This is one in a series of posts about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on global mission. 

‘All of our people are safe and well,’ said Mission Personnel Officer Elizabeth Boe in an April 23 interview about the situation of international missionaries of the Episcopal Church amid the coronavirus pandemic.  ‘Some are home, and many are still in place.’

‘We’d been following this for quite awhile before the State Department released its Level 4 Global Health Alert,’ Boe said.  The March 31 alert read: ‘The Department of State advises U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19.  In countries where commercial departure options remain available, U.S. citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period.’

‘After the alert we gave people the option of coming home to the United States, or to their country of origin,’ Boe said, explaining that some Episcopal missionaries are from other countries.  ‘Most people did not want to come home, and the majority of our people are still out there.  We told them it was better to shelter in place rather than to travel.

‘We still have 18 people out,’ Boe continued.  ‘Some couldn’t come home because borders were closed quickly, especially in Central America.  I myself was supposed to visit some missionaries in Central America but then decided it wasn’t viable.  I could have gotten into El Salvador, but six hours after I would have arrived travel was banned.  I was supposed to go on to Guatemala and Honduras, but they quickly closed their borders.  We still have people in those three countries.  At this point the borders and airports are still closed.’

‘People who came home decided there was little they could do where they were.  For instance, schools had closed down,’ Boe said.  ‘Everything depends on the context.’

There are currently 33 people on the missionary roster, Boe said; nine are with the Young Adult Service Corps (YASC), and 24 are Episcopal Volunteers in Mission (EVIM).  The 18 still abroad include five in YASC, and they are serving in Bahrain, El Salvador, England, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Jerusalem, Oman, Qatar, South Africa, Spain, United Arab Republic, Dominican Republic and Tanzania.

Missionary blogs offer direct access to the reflections of those serving abroad.  Recent examples include Emma Wright’s blog from Oman and the blog of Joe Pagano and Amy Richter in South Africa.

‘International mission service helps prepare people for this type of situation,’ Boe said, explaining that going abroad in mission is inherently isolating.  ‘Resilience-wise, they are well prepared and doing well.’  In their places of service missionaries are adopting new ways of carrying out their ministry, much as Episcopalians in the USA are.  For instance, the three clergy serving in the Persian Gulf region are holding worship via the Zoom online platform.

Boe is keeping in touch with the missionaries through Zoom meetings.  At one recent meeting, the Order of the Holy Cross member who had been chaplain to missionaries during their orientation held at the order’s monastery in West Park, N.Y., joined in the conversation, and the missionaries were delighted to be reconnected with him.

‘This pandemic is showing us that we are truly interconnected globally, whether our daily lives show that or not,’ Boe reflected.  ‘The global Anglican Communion matters.  There are beautiful stories of communion happening in many different ways.  We need each other. This situation is showing that to all of us in a new and dramatic way.’

However, the pandemic has also curtailed plans to send new missionaries.  ‘We had to make the sad but responsible decision not to hold a mission orientation in June, so there will be no new appointments this year,’ Boe said.  ‘We’re sad about this, but from a safety standpoint we wouldn’t be able to do the orientation.  We couldn’t be sure that the pandemic would be controlled enough to send people around the world.  We have a duty of care for our missionaries and also for our Anglican Communion partners who welcome people into their communities.’

Boe wrote several weeks ago to the missionaries who were in the pipeline for the orientation.  ‘That was one of the sadder emails that I’ve had to write.  We were looking forward to seeing them again in June.  It was hard to write an email that I knew would take what is already a challenging and confusing time and add more chaos to it.  I told them we would happily hold a spot for them next year if that’s what they want, and a few of them have taken us up on that.  In the fall we’ll reach out to them again.’

Eight of the missionaries who came home would like to go back, Boe said.  ‘That could happen when it’s safe and our partners and we agree that it’s possible for them to return.’  Three of the YASC missionaries would like to do a second year beyond the standard one-year term of service.

‘How do we incorporate what we’re learning now into how we recruit, train and support people?’ Boe asked as she considered the future.  ‘People see that their stories matter, even in the midst of what seems ordinary.  Sometimes asking people how they’re doing is the best gift we can give, whether in a pandemic or not.  People who are already away from home and experiencing isolation appreciate that people are thinking of them and praying for them.

Elizabeth Boe served in Tanzania with the Young Adult Service Corps from 2008 to 2010.  She joined the staff of the Episcopal Church’s Office of Global Partnerships in 2011 and has been Mission Personnel Officer since 2017.

The Office of Global Partnerships is a member agency of the Global Episcopal Mission Network, which convenes mission-activist dioceses, congregations, organizations, seminaries and individuals to catalyze global mission throughout the church.

 

 

This post is one in a series exploring the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on global mission. 

‘Every team scheduled from March through June has canceled,’ said Bill Kunkle, executive director of the Dominican Development Group (DGG), last week about US-based mission teams that changed their plans to visit the Dominican Republic in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Seven teams canceled their travel plans, Kunkle said, five postponed, and about half a dozen teams have not yet made decisions because their trips were planned for later in the summer.  What he calls ‘virtual mission teams’ are one avenue for continuing the outreach despite stay-at-home orders and travel restrictions.

Bill Kunkle at work in Dominican Republic.

The shift in DGG’s work, which coordinates the ecclesial, educational and medical mission outreach of eleven Episcopal dioceses in companionship with the Episcopal Diocese of the Dominican Republic, is a vivid example of how the global pandemic is affecting the global mission work of churches.

‘It’s a lot, it’s a real challenge,’ Kunkle said.  ‘From an organizational standpoint we’re safe financially because we’re supported by the dioceses.  But for God’s work in communities in the Dominican Republic it’s a challenge for how we can maintain the programs underway in the communities.’

DGG is working on a ‘mission from afar’ program, Kunkle said, where participants still minister as a team but don’t travel to the DR.  In addition to raising funds for ministry in the DR, virtual mission teams conduct the planned morning and evening devotions during the week they would have been in the DR.  They will be trying to have conversations with their Dominican companions via online platforms, though that is difficult due to lack of equipment in churches and schools, spotty cellular service and weak wifi connections in the DR.

‘The situation seems bad and negative in a lot of ways,’ Kunkle said, ‘but one of the positives is that it will connect this country and their country through electronic community.’

Not only has community development work been held back by the pandemic, but many individuals have been affected through decreased funds available for scholarships.  The finances of Dominican congregations have been affected negatively by restrictions on gathering for worship because many parishioners there make offerings only in cash and do not have checking accounts.

“There’s going to be a lot of things that change in mission work,’ Kunkle said as he pondered the future of mission after the pandemic.  ‘Things are going to be different in our country and in the DR.  A lot of good may come out of this.  Maybe we don’t need to meet in person as much.  But it does take out some of the relational side of mission.  It does harm that because it’s important to meet face to face.’

With his reduced travel schedule, Kunkle is now getting back to work on a handbook for mission teams that he began drafting five years ago.  The handbook will include resources for planning, scheduling, logistics and cultural sensitivity for both sides of the mission encounter.

The Dominican Development Group is based in Tampa, Florida.  An Episcopal Volunteer in Mission, Bill Kunkle has served as executive director since 2013.  DGG’s work is overseen by a 21-member Board of Directors chaired by the Rev. Jason Roberson of the Diocese of Virginia.

The Diocese of the Dominican Republic has companion relationships with the dioceses of Central Gulf Coast, Eastern Michigan, Georgia, Michigan, Nebraska, Northwest Texas, South Carolina, Southeast Florida, Southwest Florida, Western Louisiana, and Western Michigan. DDG serves as a clearinghouse for maintaining these relationships.

DGG is a member organization of the Global Episcopal Mission Network, which convenes mission-activist dioceses, congregations, organizations, seminaries and individuals to catalyze global mission throughout the church.

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