Posted by: Titus Presler | July 27, 2018

GC2018: Church exhorted to embrace global mission companionship

This is the first in a series of blogposts about events and actions related to global mission at the 2018 General Convention of the Episcopal Church, held in Austin, Texas, July 3-13.

A remarkable aspect of the work of the World Mission Legislative Committee at the 2018 General Convention of the Episcopal Church was that the committee itself generated resolutions instead of confining itself to the customary role of receiving, holding hearings on and editing resolutions submitted from around the church.

A major impetus for this effort was the fact that the dissolution of the Standing Commission on World Mission by the 2015 General Convention, which also dissolved most of the other standing commissions, meant that over the past three years there was no deliberative body within the church structure generating resolutions to move the church forward in global mission.

Sensing this vacuum, the Global Episcopal Mission Network (GEMN) – the church’s voluntary and freestanding network of mission-activist dioceses, congregations, organizations, individuals and seminaries – had put forward five resolutions for convention’s consideration, but happily the World Mission Legislative Committee wanted more!

And its first instinct was to go global – not only in the literal sense of world mission but in the metaphorical sense of exhorting the church as a whole to reorder its priorities to place the international aspect of mission higher on its agenda.

So a drafting team of half a dozen committee members got to work.  As a deputy from the Diocese of Vermont I was a member of the 27-member legislative committee, but I was not on this particular subcommittee – because I was working on another resolution!  What the subcommittee came up with received a good deal of editing by the committee as a whole, but here is the version that went up to the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, both of which passed it, so it is an official act of this General Convention:

Resolution A207: Encouraging Mission as Part of the Beloved Community

Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 79th General Convention reaffirm that “being a beloved community” means being members of a global community honoring our full name: The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church; and be it further

Resolved, That this General Convention affirm that in baptism we are called to companionship, which means standing with, traveling with, and sharing bread with another; and be it further

Resolved, That this General Convention continue to repent of colonialism and recognize that the work of mission is a Christ-centered, mutual undertaking, which is most effective when the traditional roles of “giver” and “receiver” are discarded, and the gifts of all are accepted, welcomed, and utilized; and be it further

Resolved, That this General Convention encourage dioceses, congregations and mission organizations to establish productive, mutual relationships with other outreach communities that have similar intent, but may not be part of the Episcopal Church; and be it further

Resolved, That this General Convention urge dioceses, congregations, and individuals to pray regularly for specific dioceses and congregations and individuals with whom they are in companionship; and be it further

Resolved, That this General Convention encourage dioceses, congregations and individuals to form one-to-one relationships through social media with individuals and congregations with whom they are in companionship.

Here are some highlights to note:

  • The first resolve reflects committee members’ concern that the foreign as well as the domestic side of the DFMS’s mission work be emphasized, that is, the international and cross-cultural aspect of the Episcopal Church’s participation in God’s mission.  The committee discussed the negative connotations of the word ‘foreign’ but recognized that it is indeed an antonym of ‘domestic’ and that that was how the church talked in 1820, when the first version of the DFMS was founded.  Since DFMS is actually the entity under which the Episcopal Church was incorporated in the state of New York, we kind of have to live with that terminology!

 

  • Companionship in mission is emphasized, and it is articulated as standing with, which connotes solidarity; traveling with and sharing bread (presumably both literal bread and eucharistic meals), a point often made by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America as they explain their missional emphasis on accompaniment, obviously a correlative of companionship.

 

  • Partnership does not appear in the resolution because mission partnership tends to emphasize doing rather than the being in relationship that companionship emphasizes. Further, some companions in the Majority World (Africa, Asia and Latin America) have felt that partnership in mission, despite being a paradigmatic Anglican category since 1973, has over the years tended to devolve into a business relationship around projects.

 

  • Legacies of colonialism and imperialism are repudiated. In the same third resolve the text challenges traditional missional roles of givers (in the Atlantic West) and receivers (in the Majority World) and thereby implicates such roles as neo-colonial. The still almost universal assumptions in Episcopal dioceses and congregations about ‘helping’ and ‘doing for’ are similarly challenged.  Whether intentionally or not, this language of the resolve echoes that of the Anglican Consultative Council in 1973: ‘If we once acted as though there were only givers who had nothing to receive and receivers who had nothing to give, the oneness of the missionary task must make us all both givers and receivers.’

 

  • Ecumenical and secular cooperation in mission is encouraged by the fourth resolve, thereby reminding us that God works through multiple avenues, not only through the Episcopal Church, and also beyond all churches.

 

  • Praying in mission companionship is highlighted in the fifth resolve, reminding us that simply praying for and praying with are vital in mission.

 

  • Social media are noted in the final resolve as a resource for building relationships in mission. Concerns about privacy violations and trolling abuses are dampening people’s enthusiasm for social media – witness yesterday’s record-breaking drop in Facebook’s stock value over such concerns.  Yet social media are certain to be with us for a long time to come, and they’ve been important in cultivating many missional companionships.

 

Altogether A207 is a helpful and important resolution, and it deserves to be highlighted by dioceses, congregations, mission organizations, the Global Partnerships Unit at the Episcopal Church Center – and by the Global Episcopal Mission Network, which includes them all.

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Responses

  1. Hi Titus! Thank you for this good news. I especially am moved that we have adopted the resolve about discarding the traditional roles of “giver” and “receiver.” I am at Adelynrood this weekend. I was talking with a man about colonialism and it lingering effects. He was raised in Trinidad and so knows first hand the damage that it caused. I am going to print this and give it to him.
    It is nice to see you here blogging again. I still have some hope of getting to VT this summer with our tent. Maybe we can see you and Jane. Peace and Joy!


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