Posted by: Titus Presler | June 13, 2010

Mission networks conference includes range of mission work

A major diocesan mission companionship in Africa, mission’s parallel with mutuality in marriage, the challenge of mission in post-earthquake Haiti, the gift of mission networking, possibilities for mission education – these topics represented the wide range of Episcopal mission thinking highlighted at the joint annual conference of the Episcopal Partnership for Global Mission (EPGM) and the Global Episcopal Mission Network held at Virginia Seminary in Alexandria, June 9-11.

And those were just the plenary sessions attended by the 65 mission activists from around the church.  Eight colloquia further enriched the practical, motivational and theological offerings of the conference.  The gathering marked the 20th anniversary of the networking movement that began with the founding in 1990 of the Episcopal Council for Global Mission, which in 2000 became EPGM.

In the opening plenary Wednesday evening, Bp. Catherine Roskam, suffragan of New York, highlighted the leadership role bishops can play in catalyzing major global mission initiatives with dioceses in other parts of the world.  It was a meeting between Roskam and Bp. Mdimi Mhogolo of the Diocese of Central Tanganyika in Tanzania that catalyzed The Carpenter’s Kids, a ministry with children affected by HIV/AIDS that assists 6,000 youngsters with school fees, school uniforms and a daily meal.  The outreach is sustained by companion links between the 200 congregations of the New York diocese with about the same number of congregations in Central Tanganyika.

Thursday morning’s plenary featured the Rev. Jered Weber-Johnson, assistant rector at St. Alban’s Church in Washington, D.C., and Ms. Erin Weber-Johnson, capital fund consultant for the Episcopal Church Foundation, on the topic, “Mission, Marriage and Mutuality,” coming out of their service in Taiwan, 2005-06, with the Young Adult Service Corps.  They reflected on the challenges of cultural differences they encountered in Taiwan about age and gender roles.  “Healthy mission should resonate with the marks of healthy marriage,” they concluded, noting that both inevitably involve encounter with difference.

In the absence of the Rev. Dr. Sathianathan Clarke, who was called home to India upon the death of his father, the Rt. Rev. Sundar Clarke, former bishop of Madras in the Church of South India, an ad hoc panel of conferees reflected on scripture passages they had found especially helpful in mission education.

– The Rev. George Woodward, rector of St. Edmund’s Church, Los Angeles, and chair of the World Mission Program Group in that diocese, picked up on the previous week’s lection on Elijah and the widow of Zarephath, and on Jesus’ use of that story to dramatize how he was called to mission beyond borders.

– Dedicating her remarks to the late Bp. Sundar Clarke, Ms. Jackie Kraus of the Diocese of Chicago highlighted Jesus’ words at Mark 3.34-35: “Here are my mother and my brothers!  Whoever does the will of Gos is my brother and sister and mother.”

– Mr. Len Leroy, a Virginian who has participated in a number of mission trips to Honduras, recalled how as he was growing up in Cuba he had been struck by the words of revolutionary José Julian Marti, “Children are the future of the world.”  He related this to Jesus’ words, “Let the children come to me, and do not forbid them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

– Ms. Mallory Holding, a Chicagoan YASC missionary who returned from Haiti after the earthquake, highlighted the interconnectedness of the body of Christ as explicated by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12.

– The Rev. Jim Boston of the Diocese of Oregon highlighted the ecological dimension of mission, noting how Mark 16’s version of Jesus commission stresses preaching to “the whole creation,” and relating this to the creation’s groaning in Romans 8.

– Noting how the first two verses of Psalm 122 are inscribed in Japanese on an obelisk outside the lodge of the Kiyosato Educational Experiment Project in Japan (KEEP), Ms. Sandra McPhee, executive director of the American Committee for KEEP, said that the lifting up of eyes to the hills had come to suggest to her the many small and important communities of people hidden in the Japanese hills in that region.

Mission in the aftermath of the catastrophic Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti was the subject of the Thursday afternoon plenary presentation by the Rev. Lauren Stanley, Episcopal missionary in Haiti.  She has responsibility for the partnership program that links the many outreach efforts of Episcopal and ecumenical church entities – congregations, dioceses, presbyteries, synods – with the work of the Episcopal diocese.  She spoke movingly of the history of oppression and poverty in Haiti and of the continuing witness of the church as led by Bp. Zaché Duracin.  In addition to encouraging attendees to pray and donate, she appealed to all interested in undertaking projects to make sure that they consult with the diocese before sending teams to the country.

“Mission Networking: More Crucial Than Ever” was the theme of Canon Titus Presler’s plenary address after Thursday evening’s banquet.  He reviewed the grassroots flourishing of global mission initiative in congregations and mid-level judicatories of the mainline historic churches and analyzed it as a movement of democratization in which world mission initiative has become decentralized, deprofessionalized and diversified as the bulk of it comes from congregations and the middle levels of the churches.  Noting the challenges of coherence and coordination that democratized mission presents, he highlighted the “communities of mission practice” being implemented by the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the importance of the broad mission networks innovated by Episcopalians.  He concluded by stressing how the emerging ethos of companionship in mission is ideally suited to the fragility of relationships in the current Anglican turmoil.

“Resourcing the Education of All Ages for Mission” was the Friday morning plenary theme of Ms. Ruth-Ann Collins, adult formation and lifelong learning officer at the Episcopal Church Center.  Highlighting the Episcopal Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation, Collins stressed that faith formation is essential for outgoing missioners, their sending communities, and the communities to which they go.  Citing Windows on Mission, the video series on a dozen Episcopal missionaries, as a valuable resource for mission education in congregations and dioceses, she showed the film “The Blood of the Bull,” that features the struggle for reconciliation in southern Sudan and the work of Young Adult Service Corps missionary Ross Kane with the New Sudan Council of Churches.


  1. Dear Titus and Friends,

    It is wonderful to read of this remarkable conference. I am sorry to have missed it! I am at the 22nd Hispanic Summer Program in Princeton, New Jersey.

    Meanwhile, I thank you for this report–like many of the posts here, it rekindles the mission spirit within!

    • Hi Richard!

      Thanks for the greeting and good wishes. I know you wanted to be present both for your own interest as a missiologist and as a member of the EPGM Steering Committee. The group certainly understood your absence on account of the Hispanic Summer Program, about which you had informed us. We continue to be excited about your doctoral studies in mission at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago and its sister institutions.

      This report is the first of a number that will be appearing about the conference, which highlighted lots of important initiatives and prompted good reflections.

      In mission,

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