A network of world mission-minded dioceses, churches, organisations, and individuals in the US-based Episcopal Church have attended a conference looking at global mission. The Global Mission Conference took place earlier this month. The keynote speaker was Monica Vega, a lay-woman who is currently working in the mountains of northwest Argentina. “We go into mission to meet the other, where God is present,” she said. “Not because there are needy people, or to plant a church, or to teach; but we go to meet Jesus there. Thinking we are missionaries, we become disciples. We go to meet God, who is already present in the other.”
Vega works with another lay woman, Heidi Schmidt. For the past 30 years, their private vows for mission service have taken them to Kenya, South Africa, Brazil and now Argentina. Building on the conference theme, “Mission Connects Us: God, World, Church,” Schmidt asked attendees to weave three strands of yarn, representing God, the world and themselves. “None of the three is at the centre all the time,” she said, “but God is in the midst of all three, holding them together.”
The conference took place at the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia. Its Center for Anglican Communion Studies (CACS) is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. The Revd Robert Heaney, CACS director, told the conference that “Mission begins with God . . . and reconciliation is the heart of God’s mission. Without a theology of mission we perish,” he said.
The director for mission at the Anglican Communion, the Revd Canon John Kafwanka, also addressed the conference. “Without partnership in mission we perish,” he said, as he called for a renewed partnership model based on the apostle Paul’s relationship with the Christians at Philippi.
Such a partnership will be characterised by shared vision, diversity and interdependence, mutual accountability and respect, shared receiving and giving, and mutual listening and learning, he said.
Participants discussed a number of mission-related issues, including cross-cultural pilgrimages, transformational mission, and the challenges faced by missionaries when they return home.
The Episcopal Church’s director of Global Partnerships and Mission Personnel, the Revd David Copley, spoke of the importance of mission. “We engage in mission because God created humanity in God’s image,” he said. “We engage globally because we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers: to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God. We engage globally because we are called to love God and neighbour.
“For mutually transformative mission, we must engage in critical thinking, learn about our partners and their history, share our stories and hear the stories of our distant family. God has been there before us and will be with us in all our journeys.”
The Global Mission Conference meets every year; with every third meeting taking place outside the US. Next year’s conference will take place in the Dominican Republic between 3 and 5 April 2019. Further details are available on the Global Episcopal Mission Network’s website: gemn.org.