GA-1901

GA-1901

GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH (DISCIPLES OF CHRIST)

Including the Office of General Minister and President

Teresa Hord Owens, General Minister and President

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Office of General Minister and President

Administration

I am pleased that the Rev. Lee Hull Moses will join the OGMP staff in February 2019 as Chief of Staff.  Rev. Moses most recently pastored a congregation in Greensboro, NC, and brings expertise in non-profit management and fundraising to her ministry with the OGMP.

Regional and Congregational Ministry Engagement

During 2018, I attended and preached at the majority of Regional Assemblies across the church, including Canada.  I was honored to preside at the installations of new regional ministers: the Rev. Dr. Andy Mangum, (Southwest); Bishop Valerie Melvin, (North Carolina); the Rev. Dr. Betsy Goehrig, (Florida) and the Rev. Chris Morton, (Nebraska).  When possible, I have preached at a local congregation at the conclusion of Regional Assemblies.   I have also preached at several congregational milestone anniversary celebrations.  It has been important to engage as widely as possible across the whole church in order to hear and learn, and to bear witness to local ministries, local challenges, and connect with Disciples where they are.  As I stated in my Advent message, despite the challenges we face, the spirit of hope permeates our church.

I continue to work closely with the College of Regional Ministers in support of regional minister search processes, and as part of the CRM itself in its regular meetings.  The focus of Several regions are in search for a new Regional Minister, including Pacific Southwest and Arizona, with Virginia having just completed a search.  The Ohio region has collaborated with the four contiguous regions for congregational, clergy and Commission on Ministry support. A new Regional Transitional Team leads the work of visioning the future for Ohio.  I, along with general ministry leaders, have been engaged as Ohio charts a new course.

I am working with the College of Regional Ministers (CRM) on a church-wide education plan to revive and renew spiritual practice across the church, particularly Biblical literacy.  The goal is a collection of resources across various media that can be utilized by congregations to promote spiritual formation and practice, and theological reflection.  A small group of Regional Ministers will work with me to identity resources and prepare to launch the program.

Data Initiative

I have convened a small group of Disciples laypersons with information technology and data backgrounds.  We have identified 2 phases of priority: 1) the Yearbook data gathering and data mining functions, and 2) gathering data to assess clergy well-being and flourishing.  We are preparing a proposal for external funding for this venture.  The Yearbook phase will include database and query design, including standardized reports.  Access must be both easy and useful, and providing congregations with valuable feedback is a key objective.  We are also benchmarking with other mainline denominations to see what currently exists elsewhere.

Communications

We are working with a communications firm to help assess the clarity and consistency of our messaging, and to help improve both our communications across the church, but also our messaging in the public square about the ministry of the Disciples of Christ.  A series of interviews with Disciples, lay and clergy, across expressions of the Church has highlighted that common language such as the identity statement, and other historical “mantras” are widely known and used.  We also understand ourselves to be theologically diverse, welcoming all to the Lord’s table, and striving to live in the tension that that diversity and welcome often bring.  We do , however, struggle with how to share that message beyond these formulated statements.  We will continue to work on the messaging in preparation for a wider roll-out in the coming year.  This consulting engagement is not just to deliver a new “campaign”, but rather to work with us on an ongoing basis to optimize communications re: key issues and events.

On another front, Communications Ministries will be reviewing and revising our web presence in the coming year to improve access and navigation across the site as we strive to make information more readily available across the church.

Racial/Ethnic Ministries

I attended the National Convocation, the Bi-Lingual Hispanic Assembly, and the NAPAD Convocation this summer.  The leaders of these ministries are planning to co-locate their assemblies in 2020, as we all seek to live into our calling to be a church that reflects the family of God.

I was honored to preside at the installation of the first woman to lead La Obra Hispana as the National Hispanic Pastor, the Rev. Lori Tapia. I also presided at the installation of the Rev. Chung Seong Kim as the Executive Pastor of NAPAD.

Cabinet

The HR Task Force, comprised of General Ministry representatives, drafted language to be submitted to the General Board and General Assembly as recommended minimum standards for General Ministry policies on harassment, including sexual harassment.  The Cabinet approved the recommended draft language, and some general ministries have already revised their HR policies accordingly.  This language is presented to the General Board as a resolution for adoption and referral to the General Assembly.

Justice Ministry

The participation of Disciples in the Poor People’s Campaign during 2018, both within state-based campaigns and Disciples’ ministries, has generated organic energy for social justice advocacy and ministry.  Not only were Disciples present in state Poor People’s Campaign actions, but Disciples were collectively present on several occasions with the national Campaign in Washington, DC.  In September, Disciples who have been engaged in local justice work were invited to meet in Iowa at the “Disciples Public Presence” conference.  Having witnessed the power of our collective presence and work, the goal was how to organize so that we can educate about social justice issues, informed by people in their own local contexts, and leverage our work together across the church.  A team of small groups is working now to create a plan for future communication and collective action around social justice issues.

Disciples continue to engage in advocacy around immigration policy, across many expressions of the church.  While there are specific human impacts on US soil, we also seek to educate and advocate about the root causes of global migration.

Recent trips to Good Samaritan Ministries (a ministry of the Southwest Region) in Texas, as well as to Tijuana, Mexico, with Global Ministries Partner, the Daniel F Romero Center for Border Ministries and Strategies (Centro Romero) allowed opportunities to see the challenges ministries face to provide relief and assistance as global violence, war, and poverty force many to seek safety and peace for their families.

Ecumenical Ministry

Along with Paul Tche, President of the Council on Christian Unity, and Jen Garbin, Regional Minister in Canada, I attended the General Council of the United Church of Canada.  They approved our proposal to enter into a full communion relationship.  A resolution is before the General Board and the General Assembly to approve this relationship in 2019.

I will attend the Puerto Rico Disciples Assembly later in February 2019.  I will also attend the United Church of Christ General Synod.

I will be the Sunday Morning preacher for the Ecumenical Advocacy Days in Washington, DC, in April 2019.  I continue to be active as a representative of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the US and Canada at meetings of the National Council of Churches, and the World Council of Churches.

General Assembly

The work of the General Assembly Futuring Task Force has been key to the planning of the 2019 General Assembly in Des Moines. In addition to working to keep costs down and raise sponsorships, we have added value via educational offerings. Pastors who need boundary training or anti-racism training to maintain their standing can get those classes at the event. Commissioned ministers can get their Disciples history. Elder training and classes for college students navigating campus life are planned. That is in addition to the many workshops on administration, Global Ministries and even a panel discussion on the first 50 years of The Design.

Other innovations for this assembly include:

  • Opening and closing celebrations
  • Starting on Saturday afternoon and ending Wednesday morning to potentially save one night’s hotel cost
  • An open call for sermon submissions
  • MissionFest! in the exhibit hall where congregations and ministries can share their ministry successes with other congregations and ministries looking for inspiration.

Recommended Action

The General Board receives the report from the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) including the Office of General Minister and President and forwards it to the 2019 General Assembly for consideration and discussion.

 

Center for Faith and Giving
General Board Report
Spring 2019

Our Vision: To create a culture of generosity across the life of the whole church

Our Mission: To provide resources that teach stewardship as a spiritual discipline and a whole life response to the abundance of God.

Standing Committee Members: Eric Farris (LWM Kentucky); Denise Bell (CBF Georgia); Samuel Ramirez (CHM California); Melissa St Clair (CWF Central Rocky Mountain); Daphne Gascot Arias (CHF California). Serving ex officio: Randy Johnson (CWM Indiana); Sotello Long (CBM G-COM); Terri Hord-Owens (CBF G-COM).  Bruce Barkhauer, Director (CWM, G-COM)

The Center celebrates with the church our ninth anniversary and the many ways we have been privileged to serve you.  2019 marked our sixth year of producing annual campaign materials for the church, including two years of partnership with the United Church of Christ (2017 & 2018) and our current partnership with the Ecumenical Stewardship Center.  These popular resources offer complete guidance in the task of developing a successful annual fund in congregational life and encourage strong biblical and theological study through sermon and small group curriculum.  They have also provided a necessary income stream for supporting the Center’s operational budget, only 48% of which is projected to be underwritten by Disciples Mission Fund in 2019.  We are grateful for the many partnerships we enjoy that strengthen our witness and provide the resources to empower this particular mission of the Disciples of Christ.

We are pleased to report that CFG was awarded an Oreon E Scott Grant to work extensively with congregations in the Ohio Region  Following the economic crisis in Ohio, the Center’s leadership felt a keen awareness to join with other parts of the church that have come together to support these congregations and pastors while the Ohio Region reorganizes.  Our efforts will focus on delivering stewardship and fiduciary “best practices” education for clergy and laypersons, including “generosity coaching” in up to two dozen congregations who apply for Generosity Plus.  Participants will receive two intensive study sessions at the regional camp ground (one spring, one fall, two days each session) that include the pastor and at least two lay people from each church.  For those that do not apply for Generosity Plus, a series of six webinars will be available for all of the Ohio Disciples during 2019 and the first half of 2020.  The goal is to improve both clergy and congregational financial wellness and to equip future leadership for regional and general church service on boards with administrative responsibilities. Increased financial health will expand the capacity to practice generosity at the local, regional and wider expressions of the whole church, in keeping with our stated vision.

The Generosity Plus program is being piloted in Ohio and will become available to both regions and individual congregations in 2019. This fee for service coaching platform will allow the CFG to expand its capacity and provide a deeper level of assistance for parts of the church that wish to increase their generosity profile.  We will still continue to provide our high-quality level of resources to the whole church via our website, in addition to this new program.  We have hired (on a contract/part-time basis) the Rev. Janet Long, past Moderator of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) who has just retired from her 33 1/3 years of service to Washington Avenue Christian Church in Elyria, Ohio.  We are excited to have her join our Generosity Plus team.

Our Director continues to impact those studying for the ministry and vocational service to the church through teaching at several of our Disciple seminaries, including Lexington Theological Seminary which requires students to take a stewardship and church finance course in order to graduate in the MDiv program.  In May of this year, Rev. Barkhauer will give the 4th James Reed Seminar on Stewardship, as a part of the Stalcup School of Theology, one of several recognitions that speak to the respect the Center for Faith and Giving has developed across the life of the church and amongst its peers.  He has worked in consultation with the Lake Institute on Faith and Giving at the Indiana University School of Philanthropy, assisting in both the NASCEP (North American Study on Congregational Economic Practice) Study and the redevelopment of their ECRF (Executive Certificate in Religious Fund Raising) Certificate program.  He also has participated as a mentor over the last three years to participants of Indiana Flourish (a clergy and congregational financial wellness program funded by the Lilly Foundation).  Additionally, Rev. Barkhauer was recently elected President of the Board of Directors of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center.  Bruce will complete the necessary requirements to earn his ECRF designation this spring.  He continues to be a sought after speaker and presenter among our ecumenical partners in the field of generosity and stewardship, particularly as it relates to the biblical and theological practice of stewardship as a spiritual discipline.

The Standing Committee bids farewell to the Reverend Erin Wathen who has completed a five-year term and twice served as chair.  We welcome the Reverend Daphne Gascot Aries as she begins her term that will end in 2023.  Our gratitude goes to those willing to serve and lead in this capacity.

 

Christian Church Services
PO Box 1986, Indianapolis, IN  46206
317.713.2405
Rev. Teresa “Terri” Hord Owens, president
Rev. Dr. Todd Adams, board chair
John Goebel, financial services
Cherilyn Williams, interim staff

Christian Church Services (CCS) is the umbrella corporation that coordinates the shared services of the Disciples Center such as building lease, phone system, reception and insurance. Since the last report to the General Board in April of 2018, longtime staff Sharon Coleman moved to another position within the Disciples Center in June 2018. Cherilyn Williams and John Goebel have filled the gap until the anticipated arrival of a chief of staff for the Office of General Minister and President, Rev. Lee Hull Moses, in February 2019.

The board met in June and December of 2018 to review operations. The following are highlights:

  • A new phone software system task force, led by Pension Fund’s Rick Mahoney, selected Level365 as a vendor. The software transition occurred in December 2018.
  • Meetings also included updates on finances, procedures, manuals and training cycles as well as schedule of holidays for the building.
  • Gary Kidwell was elected as board chair for 2019-2020.

 

College of Regional Ministers Report
President Greg Alexander, Kentucky
President Elect, LaTaunya Bynum, N. California-Nevada
First Vice President, Nadine Burton, Great River
Second Vice President, Bill Rose-Heim, Greater Kansas City
Secretary, Christal Williams, Tennessee

The College of Regional Ministers is made up of lead staff members of each of the 32 regional churches and the leaders of the three Ethnic Ministries and meets 2-3 times annually for spiritual renewal, mutual encouragement, continuing education, and matters of church oversight and service.

On non-General Assembly years, the CRM holds a meeting in the summer which includes the Moderators of each of the regional churches for community building and skill building.  The CRM also meets for a meal function at each General Assembly and invites the former members of the CRM and their spouses to the function at a reduced cost to continue the ties of friendship and fellowship within this group of church leaders.

The officers of the CRM, known as the CRMX, meet 6-8 times a year online for business between the formal meetings of the CRM.  Officers of the CRM are elected for a two-year term of service during the off General Assembly year gathering in the summer.

The CRM is divided into five fellowship groups based on geography.  The Fellowship Groups meet in person once a year for community building and program coordination.  Two of the five groups are currently meeting together for this function.

The funds of the CRM are managed by the OGMP Office.  The CRM work is funded through annual dues contributed by the regional churches, invested funds, and regional church budgets through voluntary work done by its members.

One of the challenges/opportunities of the CRM is the high level of turnover in the membership.  The report submitted to the 2018 General Board listed this range of service of the regional ministers in regions by their amount of tenure. Add a year to each category for 2018.

  • Five regions have been served for 14-22 years;
  • Six regions have been served for 6-11 years;
  • Six regions have served for 3-4 years;
  • Seven regions have been served for 1-2 years;
  • Two regions called permanent staff in February 2018,
  • Six regions are served by interim ministries/strategies.
  • In addition, two regional churches have changed their models to have multiple regional ministers as teams. This reality means adding five more persons using the title of Regional Minister for ministry. While the college only has one member per regional church that attends its meetings, this still translates into exceptional transitional movement in the CRM.

Highlights of 2017-2018

  • The CRM developed “An Ethical Covenant for Regional Ministers.” The members of the CRM believed Regional Ministers must be held accountable to appropriate ethical standards. At the February meeting of the CRM, all the Regional Ministers will participate in a signing service in the context of worship.
  • John Mobley (Alabama NW Florida) works as Chairperson of the Calling, Advisory, and Orientation Committee to assist Regions in leadership transition.  He works with the General Minister and President to recommend persons to serve in positions of interim leadership.  He assigns CRM members to partner with search teams in Regions that are seeking new regional ministers.  Since the beginning of 2018 the following Regions have benefited from this assistance:  Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, Mid-America, Nebraska, North Carolina, Northeast, Ohio, Pacific Southwest, South Carolina, Southwest, and Virginia.  Currently five regions are in various stages of search processes and are working closely with members of the CRM in the process.
  • Five of the CRM members serve on the General Commission on Ministry.
  • Teresa Dulyea-Parker (Illinois Wisconsin) and Bill Spangler-Dunning (Upper Midwest) represent the CRM on the Administrative Committee.
  • The CRM maintains a webpage for the public to learn about their work with a private area for confidential business. The CRM also maintains an active listserv system for fluid and quick communication.
  • Susan Gonzales-Dewey (Pacific SW) represented the CRM in the planning and implementation of the July 2018 FORM (Fellowship of Regional Moderators) meeting in Birmingham, Alabama in the days preceding the National Convocation gathering. The CRM meets in the same time frame with part of the time spent with both groups together. This date and location allowed many of the CRM members to stay for all or part of the Convocation.  A strong and vibrant network of the Regional Moderators emerged that will continue to develop identity and purpose in this next biennium.
  • The CRM is preparing to address some challenging conversations that it must have. The CRM has become very intentional to build greater degrees of trust and transparency into the developing relationships among all its members. These conversations will address the deeper systemic issues of institutional racism that still haunt the structures of our denomination; the challenges facing our current regional structures and the need to explore alternatives that will carry our witness and work forward for generations to come; the changing landscape of congregational life and its impact on our current ministry structures (education, ministerial identity, recruitment, and Search and Call).
  • Twelve of the General Units have at least one Regional Minister on their Board of Directors/Trustees. Regional Ministers serve on all of the Ethnic Ministries boards, Disciples Women Leadership, Reconciliation, Week of Compassion and General Commission on the Ministry. Four Disciples Colleges and six Disciples Seminaries have Regional Ministers on their boards.
  • The four Regional Ministers from the five contiguous regions to the Ohio Region (Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, and Pennsylvania/West Virginia) have entered into a covenant to provide Regional Ministry support services to congregations/ministers of the Ohio Region during this time of transition and renewal for that Region. Four geographic areas have been identified and one assigned to each of the four Regional Ministers.
  • The eight regions of the Southeast Regional Fellowship (AL/NWFL, FL, GA, KY, NC, SC, TN, and VA) received a grant from the Oreon E. Scott Foundation to bring key leaders and regional staffs together at Christmount in a three-day retreat to explore areas where ministry/resources could be shared among the eight regions. A follow-up retreat is planned for late February, 2019.
  • WWOW Event – In April 2018 The Wild Women of the West event was a multi-regional event that included worship, workshops, good food and good fellowship. Joined by women from the Office of Disciples Women, leaders of the Disciples Women’s Leadership Conference, and General Minister and President the weekend was rich in community and enhanced by visitors from Puerto Rico and Latin America. It was a wonderful weekend. Another Wild Women of the West gathering will take place in June 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Goals moving into 2019 – 2020 remain the same as for 2018-2019 as they are a continuation of intentional self-reflection and the actions they call forth:

  • Continuing to form a deep and collegial relationship with the new GMP;
  • rewriting our training manual for regional ministry;
  • reengaging at a deeper level our anti-racism work;
  • re-examining the distribution strategy of the regional church pool of DMF;
  • creating innovative methods for regional churches to work together in new partnerships;
  • taking better advantage of on-line meetings to share resources and training;
  • initiating a monthly online conversation about one aspect at a time of regional ministry work;
  • creating a covenant around search and call practices with representatives from CRM and all three Ethnic Ministries’ leadership;
  • rewriting the CRM bylaws;
  • redefining the CRM identity in light of new emerging models of regional ministry leadership; and
  • continuing to find ways forward in collaboration with all the ministries of our whole church that we may be a CRM that helps to bind together the work of the whole church and the congregations through mutual relationship, vision and action.

Rev. J. Gregory Alexander, President
January 31, 2019

Communication Ministries
PO Box 1986, Indianapolis, IN 46206
317.713.2496
Cherilyn Williams, Assistant Vice President for Marketing and Communications
Emily Martin, Communication and Disciples Mission Fund Coordinator

General communications

  • Supported the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival via social media, web page and e-letters, as instructed by the 2017 General Assembly resolution
  • Began work with grassroots Disciples Public Presence group based in the Upper Midwest region; attended conference in September
  • Began work with West End Strategies Team on communication audit and additional communication projects
  • Convened general ministry communicators for a retreat and monthly meetings that included targeted discussions of shared challenges such as social media practices and policies
  • Consistently distributed of Disciples News Service weekly and Disciples Together bi-monthly e-letters for general and pastor audiences respectively
  • Posted daily on Facebook and Twitter general accounts, consistently posted and monitored special interest groups: General Assembly, Disciples Local Impact and Disciples Exchange
  • Produced original stories for Disciples News Service highlighting a number of notable congregational and other ministries
  • Gathered data on audience response for electronic communications. Now that we have approximately 18 months of consistent data we will be able to begin a more careful analysis of audience preferences.
    • Statistics (January-November 2018)
      • Facebook: 1,559 new page likes in 2018; 3.2% average engagement rate (industry average is 0.17%)
      • Twitter: 534 new followers; 2% average engagement rate (industry average is 0.055%)
      • E-mail open/click rates:
        • Disciples Together: 37% average open rate; 13.7% average click rate
        • Disciples News Service: 33.1% average open rate; 14.5% average click rate

(industry average for religious organizations: 26.3% open rate, 7.3% click rate)

Website traffic:

  • org: average 2,349 page views per month, 425,176 total. The most clicked link from the home page is Our Identity
  • org: average 195 page views per month, 25,332 total. The most clicked links from the home page are What Is DMF and Special Day Offerings

Disciples Mission Fund

  • Implemented new practice of featuring related stories in Disciples News Service during offering periods; coordinated the production and distribution of Disciples Mission Fund special day offering materials (Easter, Pentecost, Thanksgiving, Christmas)
  • Set strategic goals for DMF development; at the time of this report, we had exceeded goal for increasing number of new individual donors in 2018
  • Refreshed Disciples Mission Fund website organization, creating two new pages for worship resources and online giving
  • Increased touch points with Disciples Mission Fund donors (both congregations and individuals) by sending quarterly letters and email solicitations
  • Developed informational Disciples Mission Fund brochure

Year Book & Directory

  • Supported the Year Book & Directory operations of gathering data and updating records, in partnership with regional ministers, and in layout and print production of final product.
  • Connected with Year Book staff of several other denominations to compare best practices and share ideas
  • Revised year book form and data gathering plan for 2019 cycle

General Assembly

  • Coordinated 2019 General Assembly preparation of
    • Bible studies
    • Educational offerings
    • Promotional mailings, ads and videos
    • Website update
    • Local Arrangements Committee, including missions
    • Sponsorship solicitation and ad sales
    • Exhibit booth sales
    • Initial space allocations for education, child care, etc.
    • Mobile app for the event via a third-party vendor

 

The Disciples Center for Public Witness
December 2018 Report for the OGMP
Rev. Dr. Ken Brooker Langston
Executive Director

Introduction:  The Disciples Center for Public Witness (DC4PW) is a justice advocacy ministry within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada.  Originating as a shared ministry of National City Christian Church and the Christian Church Capital Area, DC4PW is now a shared ministry of seven founding congregations and several other partner congregations.  (We are continuing to reach out successfully to new congregations).  DC4PW has official status as a recognized organization through the Office of the General Minister and President; and our finances are handled by Disciples Home Missions.

The mission of DC4PW is two-fold:  to use our denomination’s passion for justice and vision of true community to evaluate and influence the laws and policies that affect all of us—especially marginalized persons and communities—in the United States, Canada, and around the world; and to inform, connect, and empower Disciples and other people of faith for ecumenical and interfaith justice advocacy in the United States and Canada.  Our larger goal is to promote and help achieve the Beloved Community envisioned by Dr. King, a vision based on the Biblical promise of shalom and Jesus’ proclamation of the inbreaking reign of God.

 Overview:  This year has been a year of increased investment in increased capacity and further expansion, especially in two areas of our ongoing work:  communications and fundraising.  With the help of consultants, contracted staff, and volunteers, we have increased our social media presence, revised our website, published weekly enewsletters, and developed a database that better allows us to segment and communicate with our donors and grassroots advocates. Two of our contracted staff have taken fundraising courses, and the executive director has been helped on a regular basis by both a fundraising coach and an informal network of fundraisers within the denomination.

At the same time, we continue our program activities in many issue-areas, including racial justice, gender justice, worker justice, health care, mass incarceration, gun violence, domestic violence, torture (including solitary confinement), religious liberty, drone warfare, Cuba, and Palestine/Israel.  In most of these issue-areas, we work with our ecumenical, interfaith, and secular partners.  We also work with our denominational partners on racism, immigration, refugees, women and children, criminal justice reform, and care for God’s creation.

Special Programs:  Two special programs of DC4PW are the Ecumenical Poverty Initiative (EPI) and Let Justice Roll (LJR).  EPI is an anti-poverty ministry of DC4PW that is shared with the ecumenical community.  It pulls together national and local religious leaders to work on a variety of racial and economic justice issues:  exposing the negative effects of pay day lending, opposing budget cuts to programs that help people who are struggling economically, opposing the increasing debt for college students, and promoting more equal distribution of the resources available to public schools.

Let Justice Roll (LJR) is currently a virtual organization that uses its online presence and social media to inform and empower people of faith to do three things:  promote a living wage on the national level, get more involved in state campaigns that are working to increase the local minimum wage, and oppose disparities in pay between different ethnic, racial, and gender groups.  LJR’s motto is: “A job should keep you out of poverty, not in it.”

Special Projects:  In addition to our regular activities and the activities associated with EPI and LJR, there were a number of special projects in which DC4PW was involved this year.  One of these was Journey to Justice (J2J), a project in which a new pastor of African descent was given the opportunity to learn more about diverse forms of social witness by engaging in three areas of witness:  public policy advocacy, justice-oriented networking with other church leaders, and faith-based activism.

Another special project was Labor in the Pulpits.  In this project, we encouraged Disciples to invite labor leaders or people of faith involved in some form of worker justice ministry to speak in their congregations on or around Labor Day.

Still another special project was our involvement in Torture Awareness Month.  Throughout the month of June, we encouraged congregations to do three things:  give a sermon and/or host a discussion on torture; show a film about U.S. participation in torture; and hang a banner declaring opposition to torture.

Finally, we were actively engaged in Faithful Democracy, a project where we collect and distribute useful information about voter registration, voter education, and voter mobilization to regions, congregations, and faith-based groups.

We were able to accomplish the work necessary for the success of these special projects with the help of college students participating in our summer internship program.

Campaigns: DC4PW has been very involved in three major campaigns:  The Poor People’s Campaign:  A National Call to Moral Revival, where we attended planning meetings and participated in public gatherings and events in Washington, DC; the National Council of Churches’ ACT Now, which began with an event on the U.S. National Mall in which DC4PW organized and staffed a Disciples booth that received a good deal of traffic from participants in the gathering; and MLK50, where we encouraged participation by Disciples in events around the United States that were sponsored by the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN.

Collaboration with other Disciples ministries:  In terms of DC4PW’s collaboration with other Disciples ministries, we worked with Refugee and Immigration Ministries and the coalition to which it belongs, the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, to oppose such things as the separation of undocumented immigrant children from their families, the tearing apart of immigrant families by our current immigration policies, the severe limiting of the number of refugees who are allowed to enter the United States, and the changes in statutory and regulatory definitions that make it even harder for immigrants legally to enter our nation.

We also worked closely with Green Chalice with and through the coalition to which we both belong, Creation Justice Ministries, on clean air and water, the preservation of national parks and monuments, the protection of the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWAR), a quicker transition away from fossil fuels, and opposition to both the Keystone Pipeline and increased offshore drilling.

And, finally, we worked with Family & Children’s Ministries with and through the coalition to which we both belong, Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence. Alongside other people of faith, we actively promoted universal background checks, the banning of assault weapons, restrictions on high capacity ammunition magazines, and making gun trafficking a federal crime.

DC4PW also collaborated on a number of projects and events with Reconciliation Ministry, Week of Compassion, the National Benevolent Association, the Council on Christian Unity, the Division of Overseas Ministries, the Office of the General Minister and President, and the National Convocation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

Conferences in which DC4PW actively participated:  Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice, Black Ministers Retreat, the National Convocation, Winter Talk, the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Asamblea Nacional Hispana Y Bingue, the Christian Unity Gathering of the National Council of Churches, Festival of Homiletics, National Immigrant Integration Conference, MLK50 Gathering for People of Faith.

Regional Assemblies where DC4PW had a strong presence:  Canada, Florida, Tennessee, and the Christian Church Capital Area.

Coalitions with and through which DC4PW works: The Poor People’s Campaign:  A National Call for Moral Revival, Interfaith Worker Justice, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Creation Justice Ministries, Paycheck Fairness Coalition, Coalition Against Religious Discrimination, International Religious Freedom Roundtable, Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, Heads of  Washington Offices of the Washington Interreligious Staff Community, Washington Working Group on the International Criminal Court, Domestic Human Needs, Coalition on Human Needs, Interfaith Network on Drone Warfare, School of the Americas Watch, Medicaid Coalition, Jubilee, USA, Bread for the World, the Interfaith Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, the Interfaith Health Care Coalition, and the Committee on Religious Liberty.

 

European Evangelistic Society
PO Box 24560
Indianapolis, Indiana
www.eesinc.org
317-299-0333
Tony Twist, President
2018 General Board Report

The European Evangelistic Society (EES), incorporated in 1946, has now been in existence for 70 years.  The Institute for the Study of Christian Origins was established in Tübingen, Germany in the early 1960s. Its purpose is to encourage and guide research in the earliest church and to focus the application of that research on the church today. Over the years the Institute has gained the respect of the faculty of theology at the University of Tübingen and as a result occupies a place of honor among scholars of the New Testament and early church history around the world.

The mission of EES in its 70 years of history has not changed.  It remains:  To develop Christian leaders for significant service through higher learning. The vision of EES is that every nation has effective leaders of disciple-making movements making a global impact on their churches, cultures, and countries for Christ. This vision reflects the common mission priorities of the Disciples of Christ as a movement for wholeness that welcomes all to the Table, and fulfills the last command of Jesus – “. . . as you are going, make disciples of all nations immersing them into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, teaching obedience to all that I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

The mission of EES is focused on this concern of leadership development necessary to realize the Four Priorities of the Church as outlined in the 2020 Vision of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  EES views its priorities in terms of developing Christian leaders and future Christian leaders that have unique access to the University for significant service, especially international students who are coming in increased numbers.  This is done through providing practical assistance, counsel, and hospitality when they arrive on campus in order to establish relationships; then through prayer, fellowship, and studies as they get more involved.

Through the Institute for the Study of Christian Origins at the University of Tübingen, Germany, EES is actively involved in research supervision and publication. In conjunction with the Protestant faculty, a doctoral colloquium is offered in which international doctoral students have the opportunity for research supervision at a major European University. This mission expresses itself in three primary areas of ministry:

  • To develop international leaders through advanced studies
  • To assist emerging leaders in research and publication of relevant national articles, books, and other materials
  • To help encourage the establishment and development of churches, colleges, and agencies focused on evangelism and disciple making.

At the present time, the educational ministry at The Institute for the Study of Christian Origins, led by Director Dr. Beth Langstaff, continues to function alongside Eberhard Karls University in Tübingen, Germany. The Institute has a long and productive relationship with the prestigious and influential University. The influence of this ministry has been felt all over the world, as international students have come to the University for academic purposes and have been a part of the Institute.  It pursues basic New Testament research, offers colloquia through the academic year, and engages in continuing dialogue with professors and students from around the world.

The English-German Colloquium in New Testament serves as a forum for visiting professors and scholars to read works in progress. The Colloquium also provides an opportunity for doctoral students to present their work (dissertation proposals, chapter, conference papers, etc.) and to receive feedback. Moreover, it offers an unusual opportunity for scholars at all levels—master’s students, doctoral candidates, post-doc fellows, and professors—to meet and to discuss current research with one another.

A few special lectures in 2018:

  • In January, colloquium members went on a guided tour at the Bible Museum in Stuttgart, which had a special exhibition on “Gott und Geld (God and Money)”. In the evening, Professor Marius Reiser gave a guest lecture on the intriguing topic of “The Bible and Money.”
  • Another fascinating and timely topic—German theology during the Third Reich—was addressed at a well-attended guest lecture in June; Professor Anton Segev, from the Philosophy Dept of Loyola University in Chicago, read a paper on “Gerhard Kittel: Religion and Politics”
  • In July 2018, Gregory Fewster from the University of Toronto gave a talk on “Origen, the Alexandrian School, and Critical Philology of the corpus Paulinum in Egypt”.

Courses in Theological German and Theological English are taught at the University with some translation and linguistic work.  The classes include readings from a variety of Christian authors, in addition to Scripture, all with a view toward deepening relationships with God and others.  Both classes and colloquia provide good opportunities for probing questions as well as opportunities to meet outside of class for deeper discussions.  Increasingly the colloquium is serving international scholars as well.  The position that the Institute has by being part of the University officially gives them a great advantage and status as they develop these ongoing relationships.  In order to serve more effectively as Bible college professors, presidents, mission directors, and in other high capacity positions, many from these networks will need the type of advanced preparation that EES can provide.

The Theological German class has included students from all over the world: during the past year, the participants came mainly from the UK and USA. In the winter semester (2017-18), we read and discussed the 2012 book, Jesus, written by the famous Catholic theologian Hans Küng, who has spent many years here in Tübingen. In the summer semester, we focused on the writings—poems, notes, sermons, prayers—that Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote during his imprisonment from April 1943 to his execution in April 1945.

The Theological English class is made up mostly of German students, some of whom are preparing to head overseas for an exchange semester/year. During the winter semester (2017-18), we explored “Theologies of the Global South”—getting to know a range of Christian theologians from Peru to Papua New Guinea, from South Africa to South Korea. The topic for the summer class was “J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis: Story and Theology”; we discussed theological motifs such as creation, good and evil, death and eternal life, and redemption in their fantasy writings. The Tolkien/Lewis class was so large that we had to use a seminar room at the University—and it included a good number of native English speakers, as well.

During the past year, the Institute has also offered guest accommodation to visiting scholars, such as Ronald Heine, one of the speakers at the Symposium on the Lord’s Prayer, who was here in Tübingen with his wife Gill.

The Institute for the Study of Christian Origins is being positioned to help develop dedicated leaders for significant service throughout Europe, Russia, Central Asia, the Middle East, and beyond.

EES Goals:

  • Develop relationships between EES and other universities to help provide access to resources and research opportunities for the growing number of graduate students needing advanced studies.
  • Provide more doctoral mentoring, supervision, and opportunities for graduates and others through the EES networks.
  • Provide opportunities for
    • Mentoring doctoral students
    • Teaching theological English and theological German to students at Tübingen University
    • Preparing students from Eastern Europe and Central Asia to conduct research, write, and publish quality materials in their own languages
  • Continue to conduct the Doctoral Colloquium in conjunction with Protestant Faculty at Tübingen University.

On the basis of the respect earned by EES, the Institute has been able to sponsor, with the help of Tübingen’s New Testament faculty and that of the University of Munich, two symposia with scholars from around the world. These meetings help to fulfill the mission of the EES to stimulate study of early Christianity among scholars so our movement to restore New Testament Christianity can be taken seriously at the highest level. The volume of papers from the 2014 Symposium (“Make Disciples of All Nations”) is being published by Mohr Siebeck. A third symposium was held in Tübingen in October 2018. The symposium focused on the Lord’s Prayer in the context of Judaism, the New Testament, and early Christianity. The symposium was organized and sponsored by Prof. Michael Tilly (Universität Tübingen), Prof. Loren Stuckenbruck (LMU Munich) and Dr. Beth Langstaff (Institute for the Study of Christian Origins). Once again, speakers were invited from other regions of the world (e.g. Eastern Europe, North America, Israel, South Africa) and from a variety of religious traditions (Protestant, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Jewish).

Although EES does not work specifically in any one congregation, it seeks to promote the cause of reconciliation throughout the world by developing leaders who will demonstrate our commitment to the idea of a faithful, growing church that exhibits true community, deep Christian spirituality, and a passion for justice. The work of EES in Germany at the University of Tübingen is truly a multi-cultural community. Since 2000, doctoral colloquium presentations have been given by visiting professors and doctoral students from Australia, Canada, Germany, Finland, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, South Africa, The United Kingdom, and the United States. EES seeks to be an international witness for the Christian gospel in one of the most significant theological settings in the world.  In keeping with the original vision of the European Evangelistic Society, the goal is to see churches thriving and flourishing throughout the world by equipping capable leaders to serve.

EES is characterized by a deep and abiding interest in the oneness of the Body of Christ.  The original purpose of the organization was to effect a channel through which it might cooperate in accomplishing the divine mission transmitted to the Church through the New Testament, and that its fraternity in this cause should be recognized as a fellowship for advancing the Christian mission. That interest has not changed with the passing of 70 years of ministry. The European Evangelistic Society is one of the few ministries among Stone-Campbell churches that has historically sought to work among all three streams of the American expression of this ideal.  For over half a century, the dream of a united Church, bound by its commitment to the New Testament as the revelation of God about the person of Jesus Christ, has been the unchanging focus of its mission.

 

General Commission on Ministry
D. Newell Williams, Chairperson

The General Commission on Ministry [GCOM] of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is composed of members appointed by the General Minister and President in consultation with various constituencies across the life of the church.  In odd-numbered years, the General Minister and President may present a slate of members to the General Board for confirmation.

In 2018, the following persons served on the General Commission on Ministry:  Cynthia Adcock, pastor, Northwest Christian Church, Columbus, OH; Greg Alexander, Regional Minister, Christian Church in Kentucky; William Almodovar, local pastor, Indianapolis, IN; Linda Brown, layperson, Main Street Christian Church, Parker City, IN; LaTaunya Bynum,  Regional Minister, Christian Church in Northern California; Eugene Fisher, Pension Fund Representative; Pam Holt, Regional Minister, Christian Church in Oklahoma; Eugene James, Regional Minister, Christian Church in Michigan; Timothy James, Associate General Minister and Administrative Secretary of the National Convocation; Chung Seong Kim, Executive Pastor of the North American Pacific/Asian Disciples; Sotello Long, Disciples Home Mission President; Holly Miller-Shank, United Church of Christ Representative; Terri Hord Owens, General Minister and President, ex-officio;  William Rose-Heim, Regional Minister, Christian Church of Greater Kansas City; Matt Rosine, Pension Fund Representative; Glen Stewart, retired Regional Minister, Nashville, TN; Lori Tapia, National Pastor for Hispanic Ministries; D. Newell Williams, Seminary Representative [President, Brite Divinity School, Fort Worth, TX]; Tom Yang, pastor, Glenview (IL) Christian Church.  In addition, Warren Lynn, Director, Office of Christian Vocation, met by invitation with the Search and Call Committee to share information directly related to his work and Beth Sullivan, Executive Assistant to the General Minister and President, provided staff support to the Commission as a whole and in particular to the Support Committee which reviews applications for ministerial standing.

GCOM meets twice per year. In 2018, we met February 12-13 in Indianapolis and August 27-28 via electronic conferencing. By the time this General Board gathers, GCOM’s first meeting of 2019, January 7-8 in Indianapolis, will have concluded.

Since GCOM last reported to the General Board, it has addressed the following issues:

  • Policies and Procedures for Responding to Clergy Misconduct: Several editorial changes were approved for the sake of increased clarity. This document is reviewed annually. The Commission approved a motion that the current document be reviewed by legal counsel.
  • Revision of Standing Form used by the Commission: The Commission recommended that all persons applying for standing from the Commission be sent a link to two documents: Policy and Procedures for Responding to Clergy Misconduct and Ministerial Code of Ethics, and that applicants be required to check a box for each of the documents indicating they have read the document. Since August, this addition has been included in the standing forms used by the Commission.
  • Standing for retired regional ministers: GCOM affirmed that standing for retired regional ministers is held in the region where the retired regional minister resides.
  • Potential benefits across the church of a “Ministers’ Registry” distinct from Search and Call that could be created by a standardized annual minister’s standing form adopted by all regions: GCOM appointed Greg Alexander to request the College of Regional Ministers (CMR) to take this issue under consideration.
  • Use of Search and Call by racial/ethnic pastors and congregations: Challenges include: language barriers, length and content of the current profile, regional differences among commissions on ministry and policies of search and call, and overlapping responsibilities of regional and racial/ethnic pastors that can create tension and confusion.  Three action steps were approved: 1) Issue to Suran Systems a request for development (RFD) by which a pastor entering Search and Call could fill out multiple language profiles to be circulated simultaneously, allowing congregations to review their profiles in their native languages and allowing pastors to be considered in congregations beyond their native languages; 2) Initiate a conversation within the CRM about the development of a shorter and more appropriate Search and Call Ministerial Profile; 3) Request the CRM to name those elements they have in common in doing Search and Call and elements that could be done in a more consistent format to bring more consistency to our practices.
  • Standing granted to clergy for whom Standing is lodged with GCOM: 166 clergy were granted Standing. Specific joys and needs were noted and responded to, as well as requirements for Boundary Training and Diversity Training.

We welcome your input, comments, questions, ideas, and concerns.

Respectfully submitted, Newell Williams, Chairperson

 

National Christian Missionary Convention
Donald K. Gillett, III, President
Timothy M. James, Corporate Secretary

And its Subsidiary
GREENWOOD CEMETERY OF NASHVILLE, TN., INC.
William Lee, President
Dwayne Bell, General Manager

The National Convocation Board of Trustees is elected by the General Assembly as the Trustees of the National Christian Missionary Convention, Inc.  The Trustees are basically tasked with the oversight of the resources bequeathed to the National Christian Missionary Convention by our founder, Rev. Preston Taylor.  From these resources, funds are contributed to the Black Disciples Endowment Fund and to the continued growth and development of Greenwood Cemetery.

THE NATIONAL CHRISTIAN MISSSIONARY CONVENTION:

The funds of NCMC are invested with the Disciples Church Extension Fund and Christian Church Foundation.  Transactions related to NCMC operations are handled in the office of the National Convocation.

The Black Disciples Endowment Fund is owned by NCMC. The BDEF is purposed to strengthen the ministry of Black Disciples.  The BDEF assists in sponsoring the African American School of Faith and Life, offered during the Biennial Session of the National Convocation.  The fund sponsors scholarships and funds for Black Disciples congregations and leadership development.

A portion of the Lillian Merchant Fund held by Christian Church Foundation is allocated to the BDEF for ministerial recruitment and nurture.  The Office of African American Clergy and Leadership Development recruits and nurtures prospective ministers and work to continue the training legacy of our founder through the Preston Taylor Institute, William Lee, Director.

Trustees of the National Christian Missionary Convention are:  Donald K. Gillett, President; Irie Session, Vice President; Pamela Dubose, Secretary; James Vertreese, Treasurer; Milton Bowens, Ken Brooker Langston, Delesslyn Kennebrew, Joanne Walker Flowers, William Smith, Cicely Staton-Holt, Juanita Greene, and Beverly Goines.  Ex-Officio officers are: Terri Hord Owens, General Minister and President; Sotello Long, President Disciples Home Ministries; and Timothy James, Corporate Secretary.

GREENWOOD CEMETERY:

The Greenwood Cemetery of Nashville, Inc. is a nonprofit corporation organized to manage the cemetery properties owned by NCMC.  Under the able leadership of Dwayne Bell, the cemetery operates three separate sites which are becoming well known by its historic significance.  It has become more attractive to the people of Nashville and we would like for it to be  recognized and used by more Disciples of Christ.

Members of Greenwood Cemetery Board of Directors are: William Lee, Chairman; Freddie Lawton, Vice Chairman; Juanita Greene, Treasurer; Pat Penelton, Dale Braxton, Norman Reed, John Tiggle, Beverly Dickason, Ahmed White, Marvin Owens.  Ex-Officio Officers: Timothy James, Corporate Secretary; John Foulkes, Investment Committee Chair; and Dwayne Bell, General Manager.

 

National City Christian Church Foundation
John Arterberry, Chairperson
Stephen Gentle, Senior Minister
5 Thomas Circle, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20005
Telephone: (202) 232-0323
Web site: www.nationalcitycc.org

National City Christian Church was created to live out Alexander Campbell’s vision to uphold a momentous church facility in the city known for its national and world leaders so that the Gospel of Jesus Christ might be proclaimed. National City Christian Church Foundation is honored to be one of the recognized organizations of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada. The Foundation holds in trust the ownership of the church property and its facilities on behalf of the wider church. It is led by a national Board of Trustees and reports to the General Assembly. The Foundation is yoked in partnership with the congregation of National City Christian Church to provide a national facility for worship, study, ministry, and mission in the U.S. capital.

The Foundation of National City Christian Church (“The Foundation”) exists for the purpose of maintaining the financial and physical assets of the Foundation so that the congregations and/or wider ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) may pursue mission at 5 Thomas Circle. In order to accomplish this, the Foundation shall: preserve and grow the endowment; manage its facilities and property to maximize its use by tenants whose purposes are consistent with the values of the Foundation and its donors; and maintain the facilities in a manner that protects the Foundation’s assets and honors perpetual care agreements. For the purpose of reporting to the 2019 General Assembly, the following information includes activities in 2017 and 2018.

Richard L. Hamm led the Foundation as the chairperson for the Board of Trustees from 2009 to 2017. In November, 2017, National City Christian Church thanked Dr. Hamm for his eight years of distinguished leadership which has brought the Foundation to a place of strength and vitality. The Foundation is grateful for Dr. Hamm’s continued service on the Board of Trustees. John Arterberry became the new chairperson following many years of dedicated service as the vice chairperson. Mr. Arterberry, now residing in Nashville, Tennessee, is the retired Deputy Chief for the Department of Justice Fraud Section and longtime member of National City Christian Church. For Mr. Arterberry’s depth of institutional knowledge and longstanding, gifted leadership in the Foundation and the congregation, National City Christian Church is truly grateful. In March, the Foundation was delighted to welcome Steven Baines to the Foundation staff as Senior Strategist for Foundation Development, Outreach, and Spiritual Formation. The Foundation is appreciative and humbled by the remarkable leadership and generous support from the Board of Trustees, Disciples of Christ leadership throughout North America, the National City Christian Church staff, and the congregational leadership.

National City Christian Church Foundation, in partnership with the congregation, completed a two-year capital campaign called “Renew and Transform” with the purpose of addressing deferred maintenance and repairs to the facilities. The goal of $800,000 was overwhelmingly supported with over 1.1 million dollars being raised. The following projects were completed: boiler replacement, Beasley Building roof replacement, air conditioning repair, security entry system installation, carpet for the Sanctuary and the Beasley Building, courtyard pavers replacement, courtyard fountain repair, portico railings replacement, flat roof of the Sanctuary repair, exterior Sanctuary doors restoration, and the front steps received some much needed repair to its damaged limestone. The Foundation is grateful to the capital campaign leadership team led by chairperson Kathleen Burger Gerada and consultant James Powell. In conjunction with the capital campaign, the congregation launched a new permanent fund policy for legacy gifts that will support both Foundation and congregation in its future work and ministries. Christian Church Foundation Vice President Randall Johnson gave superb leadership and skilled guidance in this endeavor, and the congregation commends the work of Christian Church Foundation to all congregations interested in establishing permanent funds.

The Board of Trustees is in the midst of a discernment process concerning the sale of the 64-year-old education building that was formerly occupied by a public charter school. With expert assistance from Rock Creek Properties, the Foundation has been able to successfully navigate the complicated D.C. requirements of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, the Zoning Board, and the Historic Preservation Board. Presenting before each board or commission, we were delighted to hear board members and commissioners speak so highly of National City Christian Church and its contributions to the Washington, D.C., community. We were impressed that municipal organizations valued our ministries and wanted to preserve – what one commissioner described as – “the jewel of Thomas Circle.” The education building has been cleared, and the asbestos abatement and other demolition work has been accomplished.

The Foundation is grateful to the staff and congregational leadership that is engaged in ministry and mission in the greater Washington, D.C., area. In 2018, the congregation entered into a time of strategic planning with Hope Partnership through the Epiphany program. The congregation has enjoyed many highlights, including the 175th anniversary of Disciples of Christ worshipping in Washington, D.C., the ordination of Chaim Abramowitz Rodriguez and his installation as Pastor of Iglesia Cristiana Nacional, and the PhD graduation of Assistant Pastor Beverly Janet Goines. National City opened its doors to share with many neighbors: 10,000 bags of food were distributed to those who were hungry; hundreds of persons were welcomed with hospitality and face-painting at the church booth at Capital Pride; and many neighborhood pet owners and their canine companions joined in the annual blessing of the animals on the portico steps. In 2018, the congregation began hosting “My Neighbor Ministry” to employ an advocate to work with the poor and teach members how they can extend greater hospitality and care to those who live on the streets.

The first weekend of November, 2017, was yet another historic moment for National City Christian Church. Newly-elected General Minister and President Teresa Hord Owens preached a challenging message on the importance of knowing one’s history. The Foundation dedicated the Oscar Haynes Exhibit on permanent loan by the Disciples of Christ Historical Society. This new exhibit celebrates 100 years of the African American Convention movement that is now called the National Convocation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Associate General Minister and National Convocation Administrative Secretary Timothy James, Central Rocky Mountain Regional Minister Joan Bell-Haynes, National Convocation Board President Patricia Penelton, and Historical Society President Emeritus Peter Morgan each spoke eloquently and powerfully on behalf of the National Convocation and the Oscar Haynes family. During that same weekend, National City was honored to host the installation of Historical Society President Richard Lowery and the Kirkpatrick Lecture presented by the Reverend Dr. Delores Carpenter.

The facilities of National City Christian Church continue to be a gathering place in the U.S. capital for Disciples of Christ and ecumenical partners. Some of the gatherings and significant events that have occurred in the past two years have included:

– Disciples Home Missions Board of Directors meeting; Higher Education and Leadership Ministries Fellows annual training; U.N. Youth Conference of the Ohio region, Moral Revival of the Poor People’s Campaign teach-in led by William J. Barber II and James A. Forbes; Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice, National Interfaith Prayer Service for Marriage Equality, National AIDS Conference, National Masonic Day of Thanksgiving and Remembrance, and D.C. Interfaith Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Service with Sister Simone Campbell speaking.

– The Festival of Homiletics welcomed 1,600 clergypersons to National City Christian Church for four days of preaching and worship, lectures and fellowship. During one of the evenings of the Festival, Sojourners hosted Reclaiming Jesus candlelight vigil, filling the sanctuary with nearly 1,000 people and hundreds more listening out on the steps of the church building. Disciples speaking that evening included Teresa Hord Owens, Sharon Watkins, and Dick Hamm, along with other impressive ecumenical leaders including Bishop Michael Curry, Jim Wallis, Barbara Williams-Skinner, Richard Rohr, James Forbes, Walter Brueggemann, Otis Moss, and Tony Campolo.

– National City hosted several musical events, including weekly Friday organ concerts for the community and quarterly two-day Heritage Festival choral adjudication events for high school groups from across the U.S. Musical groups from around the community also performed in the sanctuary: the 120-voice Congressional Chorus, Fessenden Chamber Ensemble, Heritage Signature Chorale, Thomas Circle Singers, and the National Children’s Chorus (which is housed at National City).

– Partnering with the Christian Church Capital Area, National City hosted a region-wide leadership training event called “Salt and Light” and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. worship service with CTS Professor Frank Thomas preaching.

As a partner with the General Church, National City is pleased to provide offices and meeting space for the Disciples Center for Public Witness, Disciples Home Missions’ Refugee and Immigration Ministries, the Ecumenical Poverty Initiative, and the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada. In 2017, National City Christian Church shared worship materials for the Sunday before the U.S. Presidential Inauguration that were made available to Disciples congregations and ecumenical partners for worship experiences.

Church Historian Peter Morgan and Videographer John Scott Williams have created a four-part educational DVD on the history of National City Christian Church in the context of the Stone-Campbell movement. Copies of the DVD may be obtained by contacting Church Administrator Colleen Walsh at cwalsh@nationalcitycc.org.

As a multiracial/multicultural, bilingual, open and affirming congregation, National City Christian Church enjoys welcoming and worshiping with Disciples from all around the world. National City is your church in the U.S. capital. Tours of these facilities are available during the week upon request. All are invited to learn more about this unique Disciples witness at www.nationalcitycc.org or by visiting 5 Thomas Circle, N.W., in Washington, D.C.

 

Reconciliation Ministry
2019 General Board Report

Mission StatementReconciliation Ministry advances the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)’s journey toward wholeness by empowering each expression of the Church to implement structural change to address historic fractures caused by racism and the systems that perpetuate it.

Context:

As one of the four mission imperatives of the 2020 vision, “becoming a Pro-Reconciling and Anti-Racist Church”, we are well on target to achieving this identity.  The Church is living a new normal, a church that is both transformed while it is transforming.  We have made significant qualitative and qualitative progress toward embracing this identity.

Ministry Highlights

Equipping:  Training in the analysis of anti-racism has become embedded in our institutional identity.  In the 12-month period that encompasses this reporting period, our ministry has facilitated full day or two-day training events in every regional expression of the Church.  At this juncture in this component of the equipping program of our ministry, over 75% of our Regions have an anti-racism educational requirement either for clergy and leader standing or as part of their Region’s healthy boundaries cycle. Of the seven Regions that do not currently require this educational element, all are intentionally addressing ways to incorporate an ongoing commitment to AR training.  We have officially turned a corner in developing the capacity for self-examination of our policies and practices as well as building our capacity for structured dialogue about the continuing impact of our racialized histories.

Engaging:  Two of our newer projects were designed to invite Disciples to creative engagement toward our anti-racist identity.  One Bag of Tea, One Conversation, One Relationship, launched at the 2017 General Assembly, has provided opportunities for our congregations to learn about their own socio-cultural history as well as that of their inter-faith and ecumenical neighbors. It has had a warm reception and a moderate implementation.  Congregations have also been invited to make this conversational model their own.  A follow-on project from One Bag of Tea launched last Fall was our “What’s the Tea with Reconciliation?” bi-monthly podcast.  It has featured guests included Terri Hord Owens, our General Minister and President, Rev. Debbie Griffin of Downtown Disciples in Des Moines, IA a new church start, and Phil Snider, Pastor of Brentwood Christian Church and author of Preaching Resistance published by Chalice Press and has been shared broadly on social media.

Empower:  We have spent significant social media bandwidth re-presenting Reconciliation as a mission fund.  This means that the most visible presence of our ministry rests in our capacity to fund anti-racism and pro-reconciliation activities and projects in the three expression of the Church through our granting program.  We awarded four diverse projects that included intentional dialogue between four historic Disciples congregations in Atlanta, GA; a racial justice conference and an organizing and equipping training in Mid-America; a mentoring program with NBA Prison and Jail ministries; as well as a story-telling project in the Coastal Plains area of the Southwest Region. Part of empowering the saints for a pro-reconciling identity has allowed us to also support an immigration attorney in collaboration with Disciples Home Missions and other ministry partners through this granting program.

Funding:  Attention to promoting Reconciliation Ministry as a Mission Fund resulting in a small increase in overall giving. This in light of Disciples simultaneous generosity during a devasting hurricane season in September.

Opportunities:  As we live into this new reality of equipping, engaging and empowering the Church to embrace our 20/20 vision’s missional identity, we are inviting Disciples to pray and support our future-ing efforts to build capacity to continue to interpret reconciliation in every expression of the Church.  In order to accomplish this re-visioning of our current and future reality, the Reconciliation Ministry Commission with our ministry partners will begin a planning process to structure a response to Resolution 1721 – “A Renewed Commitment to Reconciliation Ministry.”

Submitted by,

Rev. April G. Johnson
Minister of Reconciliation
January 2019

 

Treasury Services

John Goebel, Vice President of Finance

 

OGMP Treasury Services’ (TS) team has grown to 7.5 members as a new position (Controller) was created.  Our HR consultant, Gregory & Appel, has been a great assistance in hiring the Controller, improving our evaluations, job descriptions, and professional development. We look forward to enhancing our ministry to the church.

We are thankful for the following partnerships as we provide accounting services:

  • seven ministries of OGMP (as Year Book and Promotion merged with TS & Communication Ministries (CM)),
  • six general ministries: Council on Christian Unity, Christian Church Services, National City Christian Church Foundation, College of Regional Ministers, Disciples of Christ Historical Society, and Central Pastoral Office for Hispanic Ministries, and
  • 20 regions: Florida, Greater Kansas City, Upper Midwest, Illinois-Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky, Northwest, Mid-America, Capital Area, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Central Rocky Mountain, Southwest, Oklahoma, Great River, Ohio, Arizona (2018), Michigan (May, 2018), Nebraska (September, 2018) and Virginia (2019).

 

 

United Christian Missionary Society
1099 North Meridian Street,
Suite 700, Indianapolis, IN 46204-1036
PO Box 1986, Indianapolis, IN 46206-1986

Sotello V. Long, President
Julia Brown Karimu, Vice-President
Email: shansen@cef.disciples.org

The United Christian Missionary Society continued to furnish financial support for the Division of Homeland Ministries, dba Disciples Home Missions (DHM), and the Division of Overseas Ministries (DOM), by investing and managing its endowment and permanent funds for the benefit of the two Divisions.

During 2018, there were three gift annuity contracts released. The total residual released amount was $9,904. There was no activity on released life income contracts. When gift annuities or life income agreements are released, the funds are either distributed outright to DHM and DOM or added to the permanent endowments of the Society depending on the beneficiary designation. The Society received $84,625 through 8/31/2018 in Miscellaneous Unrestricted Receipts with $15,000 each distributed to DOM and DHM and the remainder is invested in the pool of the Campbell Multi-Strategy Fund and Beasley Growth Fund at the Christian Church Foundation. A small undesignated mineral interest in Lincoln County, OK was also received. The Society received $16,616 in Estate Distribution from the Ethel Hartman estate designated for overseas ministry and the Cloe Kelly Estate was $1,402.

The Society continued to be involved with ethical issues which related to its investments and was active with the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility (ICCR). ICCR is an ecumenical organization of 17 Protestant denominations and approximately 200 Roman Catholic orders which cooperate concerning ethical and social concerns as expressed by actions of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

The Society, which has eight trustees and four officers, has no active employees. Beginning in 1993, the Society contracted with the Christian Church Foundation, Inc. to perform the treasury services for the Society. The current officers of the Society are as follows: Sotello V. Long, President; Julia Brown Karimu, Vice President; Kathy Watts, Corporate Secretary, and Lonna Owens, Treasurer. Four trustees are nominated by each of the two Divisions served by the Society. They are elected by the General Board of the church and serve a term of four years. Their responsibilities are to oversee and determine policies concerning the investments of assets owned by the Society. The protection as well as the income realized from these assets is of paramount concern for the trustees. Their invaluable service is recognized and this report is submitted on their behalf.

The Society distributed the following from the investment pool in 2017:  DHM – $735,710; DOM – $1,038,021; and other entities – $59,205.

The Society distributed the following from the investment pool in 2018:  DHM – $726,429; DOM – $1,022,942; other entities – $59,000.

 

Week of Compassion
Cindy Kim-Hengst, Chair, Board of Stewards
Vy Nguyen, Executive Director
P.O. Box 1986, Indianapolis, IN 46206
317-713-2442
www.weekofcompassion.org

Mission: As the relief, refugee, and development mission fund of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Week of Compassion works with partners to alleviate suffering throughout the world.

Vision: A world where God’s people transform suffering into hope

Core Values:

CONNECTION-                 Partner with individuals, congregations, and organizations to serve the needs of the world

INTEGRITY-                      Honor the commitment to faithful stewardship, ensuring gifts entrusted to Week of Compassion are making the most impact

ACCOMPANIMENT-          Embody God’s grace by committing to a long-term presence with communities in need

As the number of displaced people worldwide rises daily as a result of natural disasters and civil and political conflicts causing millions of people to seek refuge, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), through Week of Compassion, stands in solidarity with these families and communities.  By working with international partners we not only provide immediate and long-term relief, but also we continue to be the church serving and caring for our most vulnerable neighbors at home and around the world.

Severe natural disasters and global conflicts continue to displace more people every day.  By the end of 2018, we were faced with the highest levels of displacement on record—an unprecedented 68.5 million people (an increase of 2.9 million since our last General Assembly in 2017). Among them are nearly 25.4 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.  According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, about 44,400 people a day are forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution; that is roughly one person every two seconds. This has been largely fueled by new crises in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Myanmar, as well as the ongoing conflict in Syria.

Week of Compassion is grateful for our partners, especially Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ, Disciples Home Missions’ Refugee and Immigration Ministries and Legal Counsel, Church World Service, and ACT Alliance. These ministries work closely on the ground with internally displaced people and refugees here in North America and around the world, especially in Bangladesh, Myanmar, the Middle East, and the Horn of Africa. Through these partnerships, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) accompanies those forced to flee encroaching danger by walking with them as they seek refuge in different countries. In Central America, many mothers and children are fleeing imminent threat and severe poverty by walking thousands of miles to reach our southern border, only to be turned away. Our partners at Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries in South Texas and Global Ministries partner, Centro Romero Center in San Diego continue to provide emergency medicine, food, shelter, and protection for these individuals.

At home in North America, Week of Compassion continues to respond to myriad small- and medium-scale disasters that affect communities where Disciples have a presence, as well as to large-scale disasters. In the fall of 2017, powerful Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria impacted Texas, Florida, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, causing extreme flooding and destroying billions of dollars’ worth of infrastructure and homes. 2018 saw another damaging hurricane season with Hurricanes Michael and Florence causing extreme damage in Florida and North Carolina. Today, Week of Compassion is working with communities in these places to help rebuild through Disciples Home Missions’ Disciples Volunteering and other partners.  With Disciples Volunteering, we have established a mission station at First Christian Church, Texas City, Texas, that continues to receive volunteers. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, our response has been through the Disaster Recovery Support Initiative, a collaboration among Week of Compassion, Disciples Volunteering, United Church of Christ Disaster Ministries, and Brethren Disaster Ministries to provide support, mentorship, and encouragement in the development of local Long-term Recovery Groups through a sustained on-site presence.

In Puerto Rico, we continue to provide grant support to the Seminario Evangélico de Puerto Rico,  a bilateral partnership through the Division of Overseas Ministries. This grant supports repairs to buildings and campus infrastructure, cash-flow assistance (due to decreased tuition income),  tuition assistance for students, and emotional and spiritual care for students, staff, and faculty. Home repairs continue through the Programa Edifiquemos of the Iglesia Cristiana (Discípulos de Cristo). With Week of Compassion’s support, ICDCPR hired a full-time program director, Jose Molina, and a part-time construction manager, Rev. Rafael Rivera Bidot. They have created and assessed work plans for more than three dozen homes and have acquired materials for at least half of those projects. Our partners in Puerto Rico continue to be in need of more volunteers, and they are ready to receive Disciples from the mainland to help rebuild.

Climate change is creating more powerful hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, and other major disasters on a more regular basis. In the fall of 2018, one wildfire in Northern California wiped out 95% of the town of Paradise, while two other major wildfires simultaneously roared in the southern part of the state. In Zimbabwe and Kenya, extreme droughts block communities’ clean water access, forcing many to migrate to new areas. In India and Bangladesh, severe flooding continues to destroy homes and roads, making rebuilding more challenging for volunteers. We are grateful for our partners at ACT Alliance and Church World Service who are on the ground providing relief and long-term recovery in many of these areas. Disaster response organizations, especially in the United States, have collected concrete data showing that destructive natural disasters have increased in the last several decades. A comprehensive report was recently released stating that climate change could soon imperil our way of life, changing every part of the world, imposing frustrating costs on the global economy, and harming the health of virtually everyone. Climate change will have a major impact on Week of Compassion and how we will be able to respond to many of these ever-stronger disasters, thus making our disaster preparedness initiatives more crucial in the near future. It is vital to help many of our churches, regions, and general ministries prepare to serve communities when severe disasters hit.

Our partners continue to provide crucial, sustainable infrastructures that are improving lives in many communities. Week of Compassion’s Women’s Empowerment Fund has provided vital resources to many women who have gained entrepreneurial skills that have lifted their families and communities out of extreme poverty.  Our partner at IMA World Health has been providing vital health services in Africa to women, while our partner at Prosperity Catalyst is providing livelihood skills to Iraqis to generate revenue to support their families.  From providing access to clean water in Mexico, to girls being able to go to school in Cambodia, to mothers receiving loans to open up businesses, the impact the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) through Week of Compassion is making a difference in creating peace and justice around the world.

Financially, Week of Compassion continues to remain strong due to the many generous donations from local churches and individuals, enabling this ministry to have an important impact in vulnerable communities. As of the end of November 2018, Week of Compassion’s year-to-date undesignated giving totaled over $1.7 million, a decrease of 19.14% from the prior year’s giving.  This is a result of the extremely generous giving in 2017 for the various hurricanes in the Caribbean. Comparing the undesignated giving of 2018 to our budget, Week of Compassion giving is slightly up, by less than .10%.  Designated giving at the end of November 2018 is at $550,000, a decrease of 75% from the prior year.  Again, the designated giving in 2017 was for major hurricanes, which accounted for that significant difference.

The nature of relief, refugee response, and sustainable development continues to shift and change in significant ways. Week of Compassion continues to build strong partnerships and position itself to respond to the greatest needs in our world.  In 2019, Week of Compassion welcomes a new full time Associate Director for Communications and Marketing to help us better share our impact, stories, and resources with our partners and congregations.  As we work together through this life-saving ministry, we serve as a vital, visible sign of our witness to Christ in the world, so that we can bring healing, reconciliation, and wholeness in a fragmented world.

 

World Convention
(CHRISTIAN – CHURCHES OF CHRIST – DISCIPLES OF CHRIST)
Gary Holloway Executive Director/General Secretary
PO Box 50998, Nashville, TN  37205-0998 USA
Phone: +1 (615) 830-7210 Email:  office@worldconvention.org
Home Page:  http://www.worldconvention.org

2018 REPORT

Plans for Global Gathering

In 2018 World Convention continued its mission of embodying and encouraging fellowship, understanding, and common purpose within the global family of Christian-Churches of Christ-Disciples of Christ churches in 199 countries and territories. We did this through personal visits to national meetings, through our website and newsletters, and through planning for our next Global Gathering.

As I reported last year, the World Convention board approved holding our Global Gatherings more frequently. They accepted an invitation from churches in Swaziland to have our next Global Gathering in Manzini, eSwatini, April 18-21, 2019. However, internal tensions among Churches of Christ in southern Africa made it impossible to have our planned Global Gathering in eSwatini.

Our board has accepted an invitation from our churches in Poland to have our next Global Gathering there in June 2021.

Third Global Christian Forum

World Convention related our churches to other Christians in many ways in since our last meeting. The most notable was participation in the third gathering of the Global Christian Forum, held in Bogota, Colombia April 24-27, 2018. Paul Chimhungwe, President of World Convention, and I were blessed to attend, along with 251 other Christian leaders from 64 countries and 24 church families. Paul Tche and Angel Luis Rivera-Agosto from the Disciples Ecumenical Consultative Council were also there.

The Global Christian Forum (GCF) is a unique gathering of global Christian churches and organizations bringing together all the major streams of world Christianity. The GCF is an open space where all Christians can meet to nurture unity by fostering mutual respect and understanding as well as by addressing together common challenges.

The formal sessions in Bogota were of great benefit. Some of the greatest blessings were informal discussions around meals and between sessions. For me, these included:

  • A Christian from China sharing how the church has been faithful there even though local political leaders are destroying church buildings and Christian schools.
  • Testimony regarding a woman who walked four hours to receive a Bible in her own language for the first time.
  • Christians in Athens, Greece who feed 2500 hungry people each day.

The list of blessings goes on and on, from uplifting worship together to sharing our faith stories to fellowship around dinner tables to discussion of how to work together.

 

Year Book & Directory
PO Box 1986, Indianapolis, IN 46206
317.713.2453
John Goebel, Vice President of Finance
Cherilyn Williams, Assistant Vice President for Marketing and Communications
Emily Martin, Communication and Disciples Mission Fund Coordinator

The editorial team worked to review many of the data collection and production processes as the 2018 Year Book & Directory was produced. Generally, Treasury Services staff process orders, financial data and relate to the database providers. Communication Ministries staff gather congregational data and produce the final document. Regional ministers and staff are vital partners in connecting directly with congregations.

Changes in 2018 included:

  • Inclusion of the 2018 General Board reports. In past years, those reports have not appeared until the following year. The 2018 book included both the 2017 and 2018 reports. The 2019 Year Book will include the 2019 General Board reports.
  • Payment for Year Books occurred at the point of order, saving invoicing and collection costs.
  • Fonts and format were updated slightly for legibility.
  • Forms were translated into both Spanish and Korean.
  • No CD versions of the year book were produced. Electronic access is provided via PDF files of the various sections of the book.

Changes in processes for 2019 include:

  • Additions to the reporting form to include information about mission participation and giving that has not been requested before. There are also a few opportunities to connect to ministries for additional information.
  • Elimination of full page pre-filled forms mailed to congregations that will be replaced with postcards encouraging online submission (Paper forms can still be downloaded.)
  • More frequent information provided to regional staff to assist in raising response rates and offer opportunity to connect

General Minister and President Terri Hord Owens is encouraging several ministries of the Church to integrate the data that makes up the Year Book with the hope that we will be able to access real-time data in the next biennium. This will involve cooperation between the databases currently maintained in at least four formats and locations.

With sadness, we report that our communion had some losses in numbers for 2018.

  • 7 were removed by their region for inactivity (lack of reporting or contact with the region or general ministries)
  • 14 were reported as closed
  • 16 formally withdrew

With great joy, we report that we have added to our numbers with 20 congregations recognized in the following regions:

  • Alabama/Northwest Florida (3)
  • Canada (1)
  • Central Rocky Mountain (1)
  • Florida (1)
  • Illinois-Wisconsin (1)
  • Kentucky (1)
  • Mid-America (1)
  • North Carolina (2)
  • Northwest (2)
  • Oklahoma (1)
  • Oregon/Southwest Idaho (1)
  • Pacific Southwest (2)
  • Southwest (2)
  • Upper Midwest (1)

 

 

 

 

GA-1732

(Study Document)

STEWARDSHIP AS A SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE AND ITS APPLICATIONS IN THE 21ST CENTURY

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This study document was prepared in response to GA-1536 which authorized the Center for Faith and Giving to prepare a Study Document on Understanding Stewardship as a Spiritual Discipline.

Table of Contents

1. A Point of Origin and Direction

2. The Biblical Witness and Theological Assertions about Stewardship

3. After Thoughts

4. Stated Assumptions

5. For Consideration

6. Practical applications of stewardship in our time and place in the 21st century

A Point of Origin and Direction

This document is presented as a response to the charge of the General Assembly (GA 1536), meeting in 2015 at Columbus, Ohio, to offer for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) a study and reflection document on stewardship – specifically understanding stewardship as a spiritual discipline and its practical applications for the 21st Century.

The Center for Faith and Giving, tasked with undertaking this responsibility, presents to the General Assembly, meeting July 8-12, 2017, at Indianapolis, IN, a biblical reflection, a series of theological assertions, and some recommendations for the church to consider, along with the commitment to establish and curate resources in the long-term for the continued in-depth study of stewardship.

This document serves as a broad examination of the biblical materials that relate to the topic of stewardship, with an intent that the church become conversant with these fundamental understandings.  It further provides a theological perspective which is intended to encourage dialogue and conversation within the church about what stewardship is, and what it means to be a steward as an individual, a community of faith, and a part of God’s wondrous creation.

Assumptions are proposed regarding practical applications if the perspective of the document is followed to some of its potential conclusions.  Suggestions as to how these assumption/conclusions might interface with the context of the early 21st century are offered at the end of these pages.  We recognize that not everyone will share the same conclusions/assumptions of the document. That is acceptable since unity of opinion on how to be a steward in a singular way is not the primary goal.   Our objective is to better define what a steward is and thus to open a conversation.  We trust that the church in its wisdom will discover what a steward does in the unique contexts in which individuals and communities of faith are located.

The curation of resources is one important outcome of this assigned task and it is a logical culmination of our ongoing work given the following circumstances: 1) The sheer volume of the materials required for in-depth study cannot be contained in this type of document; 2) the changing nature of our context, requiring a more nimble ability to adjust to the contemporary social and political climate, which would appropriately dictate the tone and focus of such statements; and 3) the fact that in this age of easy access via electronic means, a more comprehensive and divergent mosaic of materials can be made available to a wider audience at little or no cost with unlimited access to those seeking the information.[1]

By the church receiving this document, it is commissioning the development of additional resources from a “Disciples” perspective on all aspects of stewardship for study and reflection into the next decade.

The Biblical Witness and Theological Assertions about Stewardship

Biblical stewardship, broadly defined, is the intentional management of resources (all living things in and of the earth and their produce) on behalf of the rightful owner, who is God.

Abundance and Care for the Earth: The biblical and theological grounding for stewardship is found first in the creation stories.  The poem of Genesis 1 affirms God’s delight in all that springs from the Divine imagination.  Each day the conclusion is the same, “God saw that it was good.”[2]  In fact, on the sixth day, it is not simply good, but it is “very good.”[3]  This embrace of the material world by the God who is wholly “Other” sets the relational tone for all that follows.  God and “the world” are inextricably linked. Going forward, the choices of one will in some way impact the other. This interrelatedness is a Divine prerogative – and choice will become a marker of the human creature created in God’s image, as well.  This includes the choice to love God and practice obedience to God’s desires.

As the creation narrative unfolds, it becomes evident that there is an abundance within the Divine design. The text implies a wild array of living creatures (winged things that wing, creeping things that creep, swimming things that swim)[4], and ample sustenance for all of these beings as God has “given every green plant for food.”[5]

Further evidence that this abundance is present and intended to be a permanent condition is contained within the first portion of the Divine command/promise to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth…”[6]  The abundance of the earth is self-generating and perpetual.  Plants have seeds and trees have seed within the fruit for a never-ending cycle of plants weighed heavy with grain and tree branches laden with produce.  There is enough.  The needs of creation are attended to by Divine providence.

Concepts of abundance and the well-being of “enough,” however, do not mean that the earth can be subject to mindless exploitation.   There is no sense or endorsement within the text that every want can be sustained or must be satisfied.  A choice is to be made for the management of resources.  The second portion of the Divine command/promise is to “…subdue it [the earth]; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”[7]  Made in the image of God, the human beings are to rule in the earth in the same manner that God rules in the cosmos.  God governs for the good and well-being of creation.  Humans must exercise their designated power in the same manner.  This is the goal of stewardship.

Stewardship, while not specifically stated in the Genesis poem, is strongly inferred. “And God said ‘Let there be…’”[8] as well as later biblical affirmations that “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it…[9]” remind us that we are the creation, not the Creator.  The world, its produce and its inhabitants belong to God.  Human beings, in exercising dominion, do so on behalf of God.  Therefore, doing as God would do matters and is a form of obedience. We are stewards, not owners.  Our own mortality affirms we are at best temporary tenants and shareholders of what we claim to possess.  We are accountable for the way we express and exercise our dominion.  There are consequences for both good and poor stewardship.

In the second creation story (Genesis 2:4b-25), the concept of the human being functioning as caretaker is again expressly stated.  Genesis 2:15 states that “God took the human creature and put him in the garden of Eden to protect and serve it.”[10] The human has a vocation, and in fulfilling that labor of “tending,” the garden flourishes.  Not only is this a stewardship function but it is also in the best interest of the garden’s inhabitants, including the human!  There is a direct relationship between the health of the planet and the health of all living things which inhabit the earth.  It was indeed paradise, but what made it so was the presence of God,[11] not the absence of work.  To act as a steward is to fulfill a part of the human calling.

Sabbath: The dual themes of abundance and relationship continue with the dawn of the seventh day: Sabbath.  The very proclamation/observance of Sabbath is a way of stating that God has provided enough. Labor is only required for six days, yet there is provision for seven.  This is abundance!  The fear of scarcity and the anxiety of want can be laid to rest and need not drive or define our psyche.

Sabbath also expresses the nature of the Divine/human relationship.  It reminds us that we are the created, not the Creator. The world does not exist solely because of our frenetic activity.  It exists because of the providential nature of God.   God has commanded rest and built it into the fabric of creation.  To do violence to this command is to deny God’s generosity and to risk a form of existential amnesia.  We forget who we are (the creation) and Whose we are (the Creator).

Several texts that pertain to Sabbath reinforce these themes.  Exodus 16 is the story of the manna in the wilderness that further affirms abundance and provision.  Not only is this the bread that God gives,[12] but each household has exactly what they need.[13]  To hoard the manna (to keep it over for the next day, out of fear it would not appear or out of greed or sloth) would lead to its becoming wormy and vile[14] – except for the day before the Sabbath, when a double portion could be collected and would not spoil. The context of the story is set over against the wider wilderness-wandering theme of trust.  Will Israel believe in the God of deliverance?  As the Christian Church, we of course hear, echoes of Jesus’ prayer “give us this day our daily bread”[15] as we read about the manna.  Do we believe God will provide?

The record of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 affirms that Sabbath is kept because God rested and commanded creation to do the same.[16]  It is worth noting that all the community is to rest – including servants, sojourners [the alien], and beasts of burden. This agency is extended even to the land in Leviticus 25, though the cycle of rest for the land is in years as opposed to days.[17]  Everything needs rest.  Provision will be made and rest can be taken.  One part of creation is not to abrogate the rights of another on this issue.

An account of the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5 moves us to another consideration regarding the meaning of Divine and human relationship.  Here, the reason for Sabbath keeping is the deliverance from Pharaoh’s bondage and God breaking the yoke of slavery.  We mention it here because it has at some level an economic significance, and stewardship is in part about money and economic systems.   Some scholars believe that the Decalogue is, in point and fact, more about social-economic relationships than a moral code.[18]  As to Deuteronomy 5:12-15, a few salient points follow.

First, the weekly observance of the Sabbath is a regular reminder of God’s powerful act of deliverance (not simply a reminder of the Divine rest on the seventh day of creation).  Slaves do not get a day off and the freedom they enjoy comes not from their own strength, but from God’s “mighty outstretched hand.”[19]  Second, the reason the slaves labored under Pharaoh was to create bricks for supply cities – Pharaoh’s hedge against the unreliable gods of Egypt who produce with inconsistent abundance.  Third, the relationship between Israel and Egypt is economic (cheap labor enforced by the hegemony of Egypt’s military).  Pharaoh is anxious about brick tallies, and Israel’s relationship to the ruler of the Nile is based solely on their ability to produce building materials.

God’s deliverance of Israel however, is not related to what Israel can produce.  It is a choice by God, having heard the cries of their oppression, to deliver them, not for what economic value Israel may possess, but rather for their intrinsic worth to God as a part of the creation.  God does not deliver the people of Israel to create a new labor force.

This distinction is significant. God’s covenant will be based on relationship, not an economic contract, which will thus impact the relationships among the people themselves. Take, for example, the command to honor mother and father.[20]  In a social system that values life for its quality and quantity of production, honoring aging parents who cannot contribute to the production schedule becomes problematic.  In fact, the entire second tablet of the law is about what makes human community possible and the character of those relationships.  Living peacefully with neighbor will include the command to not covet the neighbor’s belongings. As it relates to stewardship, this will come to light when we consider financial and material goods below.

Stewardship as Loving Attention to Body and Mind: Jewish thought understands not that we have a body, but that in fact we are a body.  The bifurcation and separation of body from spirit comes late into the church’s self-understanding and comprises only a narrow percentage of Second Testament thought.  To love God with body, mind, and soul in harmony would have been familiar to Jesus as well as Paul.  It is true that gnostic and ascetic movements grew alongside of and within the early church.  We don’t deny that there are believed benefits from suppressing the urges of the body [flesh] in favor of strengthening the spirit.  At the same time, we affirm that God proclaimed on the sixth day that the material creation (including embodied human creatures) was “very good.”

This colors our perspective on the value not only of our own bodies, but on the entire created order itself.  We might further appeal to the apocalyptic biblical literature that suggests that even the “new heaven and new earth” [21] will still in fact be material in nature, however perfect (not susceptible to corruption) it might be imagined.   That “God’s place is among mortals”[22] and that God will still “give water to the thirsty”[23] further suggests a realm that is not simply spiritual and disembodied, but still somehow physical in nature.  That this form would continue in an eternal state validates and affirms material being.

When Paul suggests in Romans “…to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God…”[24] we know that he has moral purity in mind (this ties to his understanding that the body and spirit are intimately related so that what we do with our body impacts our spirit). But, we can also infer that to offer the body as a sacrifice entails giving God the best of what we have to offer.  A body broken down by abuse and poor health habits is far from the best “living sacrifice” we might produce!  Such a body cannot manifest the full capacity of its offerings and deployment of its assets. Thus, failure to care for ourselves functions as a poor steward of a magnificent gift.

The body should be honored.  It contains the indwelling treasure of the gospel[25] and is a temple for the Holy Spirit.[26] Care for self, including rest (tied to Sabbath), renewal, and providing for the body’s good health are tethered to stewardship.  When issues of quality healthcare being available to all people arise, we can understand this as being related to stewardship.  Bodily health concerns, as addressed by prophets, Jesus, and the apostles view healing as God’s preference.  Poor health separates one from the community, and the failure to treat curable disease denies a person desired wholeness.  It follows that moving available resources in the direction of human wellness and wholeness is an aspect of faithful stewardship within the context of forming and sustaining community.

Stewardship and the Gospel: “You are stewards of the many-colored graces of God.”[27] When the author of 1 Peter makes this statement it resonates with the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:1 that we [the church] are “the stewards of God’s mysteries.”  Here the Greek leaves no doubt. It is not an inference but it is direct: oikonomos is translated “steward.”

We are stewards of the gospel.  Those who follow Jesus, who have made a confession of faith, received the waters of baptism, and been given the gift of the Holy Spirit are stewards – caretakers of the Good News of God’s unending love for creation, a love that death itself cannot conquer.[28]  Thatlove  is present at creation and is displayed most fully in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.  This is the church’s ultimate story, our most treasured of entrusted gifts, and it is ours to tell as faithful stewards.

Stewardship and evangelism are related to each other.  We have a light to shine and we must not put it under a bushel.[29]  The simplicity of the task and the gravity of its importance appear mismatched.  We must tell our story because it has the power to transform lives.  Transformed lives have the power to change the world.  Failure to be a steward of the gospel not only risks others not coming to know its power, but for the story (in the particular way that we, as the Disciples of Christ, know it) to not reach beyond this generation.  It is not about our own survival, yet we acknowledge that something in the wider stream of Christian thought and witness will be lost without our tributary adding to its ever-flowing river.

The Disciples of Christ tradition has long lifted the ministry of Andrew as “one who brings others to Christ”. [30],[31] In story after story we learn that, despite Jesus’ urging to do otherwise, those who witness his power and are moved by his teachings are compelled to share the story of Jesus with others.[32] To encounter Christ is to encounter an experience worth sharing.

Per the synoptic gospels, upon his ascension into heaven, Jesus gives the great commission to the disciples [the church] “to go into all the world and proclaim the good news”[33] – leaving it for us to do in his physical absence, as a steward would manage the household in the absence of the master. Prior to this, Jesus had also sent the disciples on a mission to proclaim the Realm of God.[34]  In the record of the four evangelists, when Jesus is talking to the disciples, he is talking to us [the church].  Sharing the gospel is not optional; it is our vocation as followers of Jesus.

Stewardship and Resources, Money, and Possessions: We begin by noting that this relationship between ourselves and our possessions is often characterized in the bible as one of choice.  “No one can serve two masters; for a slave, will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and mammon [wealth].”[35]  It is a clear-cut choice.  Money makes a powerful servant but a lousy master.  We get to pick, but we must also understand the consequences of our choice.  If we choose the possession of money as our source of security and place of our ultimate loyalty, it will be like trying to collect water with a sieve. There will never be enough to protect the well-being of our soul and there will always be a desire for “just a little more,” and then “just this much more,” and so on, in a never-ending cycle.  That which is less than the ultimate cannot ultimately satisfy.

When you can give money away, you demonstrate your power over it.  When you cannot, it displays its power over you.  The three synoptic gospels each tell of a man (the composite picture of whom is a “rich, young ruler”) who presents himself before Jesus with a question – a query about that which most of us would wish to have a clear answer: “What must I do to inherit the Realm of God?”[36]  Jesus begins by quoting the second tablet of the Law, the things that make human community possible. Jesus then, upon hearing the man’s reply that he “has done all these things,” presses him still further.  “Go, sell all that you have and give it to the poor so you will have treasure in heaven, then come and follow me.”[37]

Jesus sets before the man a choice: Divest your money and place it toward the values of the Realm (taking care of the poor) and follow me, or stay with your stuff and miss what ultimately matters.  This or that.  The man goes away sad, for he had many possessions, or perhaps more accurately stated, his many possessions had him.  He chose poorly, selecting his lifeless wealth over the Living God.  The strength of the pull of our possessions should not be underestimated.

The nature and clarity of the decision are reminiscent of the first two of the great commandments: You shall have no other gods before God; and, you shall not create an image or worship anything that is “in the heaven above, on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.”[38] The First Testament reminds us in an oft-repeated mantra that our things cannot save us.  When Joshua prepares the people of Israel to cross over the Jordan and enter the land of promise, he reminds the people of the power of God that has been displayed on their behalf, and demands that they make a choice:  Will they serve God or will they wander after foreign gods?[39]

When in need, Israel has (a least part of the time!) chosen to trust God; and God has (all the time) been the trustworthy provider in the desert wilderness.  Now, when they are to enter a land flowing with milk and honey, will they remember the source of their abundance?  Prosperity is as great a threat to the faithful handling of our possessions as is being in want.  When times are good, are we as generous as we might be?  Are we still aware of the ultimate source of our abundance? Or, do we think it is because of our own hard work or other good fortune?  Do we become more judgmental about those who do not share in prosperity, perhaps believing them to be lazy?  The warnings (particularly in Deuteronomy 8) pertaining to the risk of unfaithfulness in the midst of plenty are aimed at precisely this fact.  Don’t forget the true source of your provision.

Those things that would lure us away from true discipleship are rarely easily identified as such.  Temptation is often subtler in its appearance. Consider the choice placed before our primordial ancestors and the nature of its presentation!  “The serpent was more crafty [subtle] than any other creatures…”[40] Even the choice in the garden itself is a quest for more than what was deemed to be enough – to be more than human (eat the fruit and become like God).  A choice was made to live in the world on our own terms instead of on God’s terms, the consequences of which were/are harsh and damaging to all the relationships in the creation. Stewardship is about rightful ownership (it is all God’s) and thus “rightful place” (we are entrusted with its care as managers) in the created order.  It is also about contentment with “enough” in contrast to the insatiable desire for more.

This acquisitiveness is a human condition which can undermine our trust in God, our relationships with one another, and the faithful stewardship of our resources.   It’s connections to the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th commandments are obvious (the prohibitions against adultery, stealing, lying, and coveting).  To take or desire that which does not belong to us, as opposed to being content with what we have, makes living in human community impossible. To take more than we need at the expense of another or to abuse the truth for our personal gain does violence to the neighbor and denies God’s provision and abundance, which is for the whole of creation.  To be in fear that what we have will be lost due to the actions of another creates defensive postures, relationships shadowed by mistrust, and self-justification for hoarding.

Jesus says, “Do not store up treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth or rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”[41] Despite wanting to believe that our money will naturally flow toward the ventures of the heart and the spirit, Jesus says something quite different. It is more than a mere suggestion that the condition of our heart can be seen in the ledger of our debit card statement.  Find your money and you will find your heart.  Your checkbook (and the church budget, for that matter) is a theological document.

Are we investing in the values of the Realm of God (storing treasures in heaven), or are we engaged in something else?  Have we been generous toward those things that lead to justice, wholeness, and hope, or have we been seeking more “stuff” because our current possessions have failed to truly satisfy us?

This question of acquisitiveness is not solely for the individual.  It can apply to our institutions, as well. To steward well the resources entrusted to us as communities of faith should include an examination of our property, our “reserve” funds, and all our assets (physical, human, and spiritual) that we hold in common trust.  Are they all employed well in service to the mission to which God has called us?  Are we clear on what that mission is?  The human existential questions of “Who am I?” and “What am I to do?” are meaningful for organizations as well as individuals.  They are the perpetual questions of a church that understands itself to be reformed and ever-reforming, thus seeking to know God afresh in this time and place.

We noted that the relationship with our material goods, especially our money, is presented as a choice. Wealth and resources are themselves treated as value-neutral in most biblical passages that pertain to them.  The real issue of concern is, what is our relationship with these things?  In what ways do we define them or allow them to define us?  The author of 1 Timothy reminds us that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”[42]  When our desire is for money and material things in and of themselves, we risk potential damage to ourselves and others.  Most of us need little imagination to connect this truth to the devastation left in the wake of those (both individuals and corporations) whose only pursuit in life has been the acquisition of more.  Such desire can fragment relationships and exploit resources, both human and natural.

Luke’s gospel reminds us of a farmer whose land produced in immense abundance, so much so that his current barns could not hold all that the fields had produced.  In a conversation he has only with himself (absent of others or accountability to God), he plans to raze his old barns, build new ones adequate for the task, and “eat, drink, and be merry for the rest of his days.”[43] As Jesus tells the story, it concludes with “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you.  And all those things you have prepared, whose will they be?’  So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves, but whose lives are not rich toward God.”

We would note here that conversations about legacy are important for individuals and congregations.  Have we made provisions for that moment when our own lives (or the sustainable life of our institutions) will “be required of us?”  Understanding our stewardship is “whole life” in nature would suggest that conversations about everything from organ donation and the way we approach a funeral (especially cost), to being intentional about leaving planned gifts for organizations that have changed our lives or the lives of others, should be important.  Other non-profits have not been afraid to ask their donors and supporters to consider making a gift (perhaps the most generous gift a person will ever make) at the end of life; shouldn’t the church be willing to ask for the same consideration?

Instead of flowing freely into a community for the benefit of all, wealth can become concentrated among a few, and thus its blessings of assuring enough for others can be withheld at the expense of those others. Money was not originally intended to be a commodity, but rather a temporary medium of exchange.[44]  Eric Law reminds us that “when we lost sight of the original purpose of money and decided to accumulate it as a commodity, rather than keeping it moving as medium of exchange, we created economic problems.”[45]

We see at the beginning of this century how this becomes a concern for the practice of stewardship and its impact at global level.  It was reported in January 2017 that eight individuals had amassed a combined wealth greater than the total resources of 50% of the planet’s population![46] This staggering figure suggests a problem both in the management of resources for the greater good and for the flow of money in the wake of global poverty.  It is true that several individuals of this “gang of eight” are generous with their wealth and have invested in programs that are designed to help those in desperate need.  However, it is not unfair to ask, when so many go without basic essentials for life, “How many billions of dollars do you need after the first billion?”  The concentration of wealth among such a few, while permitted in supply-side and free-market economic systems, appears contrary to all acceptable biblical models.  How much is enough?

At issue is not solely that some are wealthy and some are not.  The concern is the sanctioned systemic process whereby money is transferred to a concentrated few at the expense of others through suppressed wages, which harm the very people who produce the goods and services.  It is further exacerbated when, due to insufficient earnings, people are forced into indebtedness to purchase necessary goods for survival.  When lenders are unscrupulous, the rates of interest too high, or the terms of loans unreasonable, the cycle is virtually unbreakable, and even more money flows from the many to the few.  Welcome the new Pharaoh!  The practice of the empire in the ancient world achieved this through taxes, indentured servitude, and outright government-sanctioned theft.  The prophets railed against the nation of Israel when it imitated this behavior, seeing it as a violation of the laws God had set in place, and the prophets believed that such actions contributed to the downfall and subsequent exile of Israel.[47]

That said, the church also has an obligation to be in ministry with the wealthy and to tend to their spiritual needs, rather than to dismiss them as evil or worthy only of condemnation.  While scholars within the church have clearly pointed to God’s preferential option for the poor,[48] that is not meant to counter the well-being of the rich.  Jesus says that “it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the Realm of God.”[49]   Therefore, it is incumbent on the church to educate the wealthy on their responsibilities toward those in need and their opportunities to lift-up the human dignity of each child of God.  Naming the dangers of wealth and its: 1) ability to insulate one from the suffering of another, and 2) the reliance on money instead of God, is part of our vocation in proclaiming the whole gospel.

To suggest that God loves the poor more than the rich would be to deny both God’s love and God’s grace to each individual person.  Rich and poor alike and together have both spiritual and physical needs to which the church has equal responsibilities. At the same time, we acknowledge that to the one to whom much has been given, much is expected.[50] Those who have wealth are often concerned about how it should be used.  They are also aware of how it can label or identify them in confining ways uniquely similar to how the lack of money defines and limits the identity of those who are poor.

Stewardship and Generosity: The model upheld for the people of God is one of sharing resources.  Both Testaments leave little doubt that economic protections for the poor and the vulnerable are not to be ignored. These prescriptions include laws that pertain to gleaning,[51] to what may be held as collateral,[52] the charging of interest,[53] the fair payment of wages,[54] the canceling of debts,[55] and generosity toward the poor (which include the widow, the orphan, and the alien/sojourner).[56]

Concern for the poor is stated most emphatically in Deuteronomy and the appeal to “…not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor. You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be. … Give liberally and be ungrudging when you do so, for on this account the Lord your God will bless you, your work and in all that you undertake.  Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, ‘Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.’”[57]

The faithful keeping of these laws will have its own economic impact on the people, for God promises that if the commandments are kept, there will be life and prosperity.  For Israel, and the land it is about to occupy, failure to do so will result in the blessing of God being removed, which will end in death and alienation.[58] The ideal behavior for the church to aspire is one where all things are held in common, so that there is no need within the community.[59] This is not to be understood as an imposed economic system (such as socialism), but rather a way of living that is truly egalitarian in nature, brought about through the reconciliation of all things in Jesus Christ.  Further, within the church, there is to be no partiality shown between the rich and the poor, for to do so is to commit a sin.[60]  In fact, to fail to address the needs of the neighbor is to be in possession of a faith that is dead.[61]

Such a way of being in the world is an outgrowth of discipleship flowing from the people outward, rather than imposed by authority or compulsion.  The Jerusalem offering and Paul’s appeal for its collection is one model of this behavior within the Second Testament. There is a need among the “saints” in Jerusalem, and Paul has agreed to seek financial assistance from the gentile churches in Asia Minor and Greece.[62] We first learn of this offering at the end of the First Epistle to the Corinthians,[63] as Paul instructs the church gathered there to prepare for his coming.  He encourages the Corinthians to approach this offering with intentionality and discipline.  Each week they are to set aside something, so that when he arrives they will have the gift ready.  That this gift is being received over time suggests it is indeed a generous offering to meet a substantial need. The idea that an offering is given with thought and preparation is worth noting as we consider our own approach to such an act in our own congregations.  Indeed, taking time to be prepared both to make and to receive the offering is worthy of our best efforts.

In Second Corinthians (chapters 8 & 9) we learn the details of Paul’s case for support of the Jerusalem saints.  It is important to note that Paul does not use guilt, though he certainly appeals to the Corinthians‘ sense of pride by encouraging them “not to be outdone” by the churches of Macedonia![64]  While remarking that the Corinthians have excelled in many things, he now wants them to excel in generosity.  He does not want them to give beyond their means, but he does expect them to give liberally.  There is a call to a careful examination of conscience and an honest appraisal of individual capacity.  Paul suggests a balance between the Corinthian’s abundance and the need in Jerusalem, with the possibility of a reciprocity in the future.  Paul refers to the story we explored above in Exodus 16 regarding the manna in the wilderness. “The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.”[65]   Abundance has not come at the expense of another.  In this case, the one who has given to the one who has not, so that all have “enough” and no one goes without.

That this gift should be generous is made clear in Paul’s reference to Jesus Christ, “who though he was rich became poor for our sake.”[66]  This further affirms the idea that the gift itself is meaningful and offered with thought.  Generosity looks like Jesus.  It is not without cost or sacrifice.  As disciples, we, too, are called to give with liberality.  To sow sparingly is to reap sparingly, cautions Paul, so we are to sow bountifully with an expectation to reap bountifully.  And here, Paul sets the giving as an act of the will – a choice.  We are to give without reluctance or compulsion for God loves a cheerful giver![67]  Your discovery that you have something to give should bring thanksgiving – you have enough and then some!  That what you give will make a difference in the world on behalf of the Realm of God – what could be more satisfying? Knowing that someone will eat a meal, have warm safe place to stay, be comforted or be made well – it does stir deep joy from within us!

There is confidence in giving because God provides, says Paul.  You can give believing that, if sometime you have a need, God will provide for you in the same way that you are providing for others.  This giving is based on God’s trustworthiness, and when the gift is given there is a sense of doxology.  “You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us.”[68]  In the thanksgiving of those who receive the gift, God is praised.  In an age of full basements and storage units that we never visit but that we cling to because we might need that stuff someday, we are assured that we can let it go and we will be okay.  God does provide, whether it is a ram in the thicket or the unexpected kindness of a good Samaritan. We can trust the future when we live on God’s terms of a community that shares and practices generosity.

Paul sees the work of generosity as an extension of the gospel proclamation and a manifestation of God’s grace.  The economic partnership (koinonia) being forged on behalf of the Jerusalem saints by disparate people and cultures affirms a unity in Christ transcendent of those differences (what could be more different than Corinth and Jerusalem in the first century CE!).

For Paul, the manifestation of generosity is a fruit of the spirit.[69]  It is part of the evidence that an individual is alive in the faith.  Extravagant generosity is a Spiritual gift which contributes to the benefit of the whole body of Christ.[70]   Contributing to the needs of the saints is among one of many virtues Paul encourages as a mark of the faithful disciple.[71]  This is true for the church in every age.

Generosity is celebrated in a host of ways in the biblical witness. Joseph of Cyprus, who was also known as Barnabas, is reported to have sold a piece of property and given the entire proceeds to the early church. He is named as one among many who, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, sold land and houses and laid the gifts at the feet of the apostles, the result of which was “that there was not a needy person among them.”[72] The generosity of the community sustained the community and it propelled the witness of the gospel.

The Book of Acts also tells the resurrection story of the disciple Tabitha.[73]  That she was “dedicated to good works and acts of charity” should not escape our notice.  When Tabitha dies, it creates a crisis in the church at Joppa and the apostle Peter is summoned with urgency. Peter arrives to find the grieving widows, whom Tabitha had helped in her lifetime, gathered around her lifeless body, now prepared for burial.  They display the garments she had woven for them, as she was a lifeline in a culture that had no direct support for the vulnerable, save their own families or the generosity of others.  The story reaches its climax as Peter, after having everyone leave the room, prays and then looks at the body of Tabitha and says, “Tabitha get up” – and she does!

As careful readers of scripture, we know that Luke (the author of Acts) wants to make it clear that while Jesus has physically left the building (ascended into heaven), his life-giving power remains present via the Holy Spirit.  But beyond that, we also see an intentional affirmation of the vocation of charitable work.  It could have been anyone who died and whose being raised to life proclaimed the power of Jesus at work in the apostles – but it was not just anyone.  It was Tabitha, one whose life was dedicated to helping others, reminding the church that we cannot be the church without this same work.  Generosity is life-giving.

Recent studies have shown that generosity increases happiness, health, and a sense of purpose in those who practice it.  There is a correlation between generous behavior and a personal sense of well-being, according research conducted by Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson.[74] They point out the truth found in the proverb, “One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly but ends up impoverished.”[75] Generosity is good for you.

To look at Jesus is to see generosity incarnate.  From the soaring prose of John 1 to the magnificent hymn of Philippians 2, the Second Testament affirms that to see Jesus is to in some way catch a glimpse of God.  The nature of God is abundance and generosity, and that is on display in the ministry of Jesus.  In the presence of Jesus, there is always enough. The gospels present a ministry of Jesus that has enough power to overcome illness, enough grace to overcome alienation, enough compassion to provide comfort, and enough love to overcome death itself.   If we believe this to be true and we believe that Jesus is still present in the church, this should lower our anxiety about having enough resources to do the mission we have been called by God to do.

In the Gospel of John, there is a familiar story of Jesus at a wedding in Cana of Galilee.  We recognize that all stories in this gospel have layers of meaning and that, primarily, the changing of water into wine is a miracle meant to reveal the Divine character of Jesus and to point toward his glorification in death and resurrection.  However, one cannot dismiss the volume of the wine produced!  It is more than enough for the situation at hand – it is an abundance beyond what is necessary.

All four evangelists record the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand.  Here, in the face of need, Jesus provides more than what is required so that there are baskets full of left-overs.  What is important here for the church to recognize, beyond the provision itself, is that Jesus, when confronted about the need for food, looks at the disciples[76] and says “You give them something to eat.”[77]  While there are many aspects of this story that can be lifted up, we choose two: 1) Jesus expects the disciples [and thus, the church] to accomplish fulfilling the need at hand; 2) when the disciples place into the hands of Jesus what resources they have (however insufficient they may appear), it becomes more than enough.  Generosity and abundance. A Divine human partnership that changes the world.

There is also generosity that is offered in response to generosity received. While elements of the story are somewhat unclear relative to who she is or what her motivation might have been, all four gospels tell the story of a woman who anoints Jesus with a fragrant ointment.  Details are lacking about number of things, but all four writers are certain that the value of the perfume is great – worth an entire year’s salary.  The act appears to be out of gratitude.  The gesture expresses extravagant generosity.  It prompts a question to the reader – to what would you give a year’s salary and what could possibly motivate you do so?  A serious reflection about the depth of our own gratitude for Jesus calls us to consider the nature of our own generosity.  Grateful people are generous people.  God’s people have a reason to be thankful!

Gratitude is a part of our stewardship response, centered in the belief that all we have come to possess is, at its core, a gift.  When Paul is encouraging the Corinthians to participate in the offering for the Jerusalem saints, he makes it clear that the gift they are giving is not one of obligation.  At the same time, he underscores the reality that knowing all they have received from God in Jesus Christ, how could they be anything but generous?  Throughout scripture, there is an urging to rejoice and give thanks to God.  Whether it is the humble return of a cleansed leper,[78] the fresh obedience of a penitent sinner, or the saying of grace at the evening supper table, gratitude is the seedbed for generosity.

A favorite story for many a stewardship sermon is that of the widow’s mite.[79]  At face value, it is a tremendous story of generosity and faith, her giving two copper coins – all that she possessed – to the temple offering.  Told in both the gospels of Mark and Luke, this story tells us that Jesus, who has been observing the gifts that people have been making to the temple treasury, sees her gift and calls attention to its true value.  Her contribution was not out of what she could spare, but was all she had to secure her sustenance.   Stated as such, it is indeed an extravagant offering which displays great trust in God to provide. The gifts of the wealthy, though considerably larger in amount, pale in comparison.  Would, that however impractical it seems to us, we could give so freely!

However, there is a caveat in reading that text with regard to its placement within each gospel. The passage which immediately precedes the story in both Mark and Luke warns about the religious class – those who love the trappings of piety and privilege.   “They devour widow’s houses” Jesus says.  “They will receive the greater condemnation.” [80]  The church cannot prey upon the generous, nor can it ignore the needs of those in its midst by catering to the desires of the wealthy.  While needing to encourage generosity among its members, it must also practice it on their behalf and in their best interest.

Stewardship and Judgment: Stewardship-related themes are also to be found in stories about judgment, as our choices to act or not to act faithfully have consequences. In a story given to us only by Luke, we see the harsh punishment that awaits a rich man who has ignored the beggar at his gate.[81]  It is a narrative of stark contrasts, as the wealthy one is dressed in purple (a sign of significant wealth) and who dines sumptuously every day.  The poor man (named Lazarus – which means “God helps”) sits at the gate begging for scraps off the table and is covered in sores which the dogs come and lick.  It is unlikely that the rich man was unaware of Lazarus in his daily denial of the poor man’s plight.

The nature of their situation is highlighted further when you consider that in the ancient world, the poor had bread, the middle class had bread and sauces/vegetables, the rich had bread and sauces and meats, and that the very wealthy had such an excess of bread they could use it like a napkin to cleans their hands.   Lazarus desires what is essentially just the napkin of rich man to stave off his hunger!

As Jesus tells the story, both men die, and in the afterlife, Lazarus is in the bosom of Abraham while the rich man is in Hades suffering torment. The great reversal, so prevalent in Luke, governs their fate in the afterlife.  The rich man now seeks comfort from Lazarus, who is unable to provide it.  In great concern for his five brothers left behind, the rich man appeals to Abraham to send Lazarus to warn them of the fate they, too, will suffer if they do not change and consider the poor.  Abraham responds that they have Moses and the prophets, and if they have not listened to them, why would they be convinced if someone returned from the dead?

To reflect on this story is to wonder what their fate would have been (specifically the rich man) in the afterlife had there not been such an unmitigated disparity of their circumstances while in this life?  If the rich man had extended generosity toward Lazarus, would his punishment have been so extreme?  There is a change coming. For people who have both the “law and the prophets” and “one who has returned from the dead,” it would be hard to deny we have not be warned.

In a word about the final judgment in Matthew’s gospel, we hear a story with a similar refrain.  Known to many as the parable of the sheep and goats (or the Judgement of the Nations), the scene is set as the final reckoning and adjudication between those who will see the Realm of God and those who will not. The distinction between the fates is clear, once again affirming the power of choice related to our employment of resources, our compassion, and our sense of justice. “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”[82]

Here, in what is the essentially the longest discourse in the Second Testament about the criteria that qualifies one for entrance into heaven, what matters most is seemingly not doctrine or right belief, but it is having assured the basic human needs for others.[83] The failure to do so warrants eternal separation from God. “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.  Then they will answer, ‘Lord when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’”

The text needs little commentary.  Part of our stewardship is the care for one another. In seeing to the needs of the least of these, we bear evidence of and participate in the coming Realm that is both present and yet to be fulfilled.

When it comes to judgment, we must also address the honesty and integrity of our approach to giving and being in community.  Immediately following the magnanimous gift of Barnabas in Acts 4 comes the story in Chapter 5 of Ananias and Sapphira. They also make a gift from the sale of land; however, they conspire together to withhold a portion of the proceeds for themselves.  When this is revealed by Peter, he tells Ananias that he [Ananias] was not compelled to sell the land or to give the entire proceeds from the sale to the community. Instead he [Ananias] has lied, claiming the gift to be more generous than it was, and by so doing has not lied only to the church but to God.  Upon hearing this truth – Ananias falls down and dies!  Further, when Sapphira shows up hours later and she is questioned, she too lies (not yet having learned of her husband’s fate) and she also falls down and dies!

Hard as it might be to accept that God would strike down these two for lying about their gift, there is a deeper message here for the church to consider.  The fact that they lied about the proceeds reveals that their entire heart was not dedicated to God.  While saying otherwise, their actions demonstrate that they were not fully invested in the work of the Holy Spirit within the community.  They simply were not “all in.”  Faithful stewardship is about being “all in” on what God is doing in the world and being an agent of the Realm so that the world as we know it is transformed into the world as God desires it to be.

Stewardship may be considered a life-and-death issue when we examine what is at stake regarding the impact of our whole-life discipline of practicing it, and the difference such a commitment makes to the world in which we live. When teaching discipleship – what it means to follow Jesus – we must be honest about what such a decision demands.  “No one who has put their hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God.”[84]  In the Book of Revelation there is a similar warning issued to the church at Laodicea: “I know your works; you are neither cold or hot.  So because you are lukewarm I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”[85] To be a true disciple is to be truly committed.

Stewardship and the Tithe: It may surprise the average person to know that the tithe (when compared to money in general) is seldom addressed in the Bible, aside from the instructions for its collection by the priests in Numbers and Leviticus.   The first mention of the tithe is in Genesis 14 when, following a successful battle, Abram is blessed by King Melchizedek and Abram offers him 1/10 of everything.[86]

The most detailed discussions of the tithe are found in Deuteronomy, and it may not sound like what you thought you remembered!  “Set apart a tithe of all the yield of your seed that is brought in yearly form the field. In the presence of the Lord your God, in the place that he will choose as the dwelling for his name, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, your wine, and your oil, as well as the firstlings of your herd and flock, so that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always.”[87] This is a potluck supper celebration!  The tithe is brought in and the people rejoice that earth has produced once again for their benefit.

Whether you have a little or a lot, you bring in 10% of what you do have and the entire community benefits.  This serves as a reminder as to the source of the blessing.  “So that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always” takes us back to the assertion in Genesis 1 that we are the created, not the Creator.  This offering proclaims that God is the source of the abundance that sustains us.  It has not come simply from our own endeavors, however good our farming and animal husbandry skills might be – it begins with God.  We can plant the seed, but only God can make it grow!

The text goes on to speak of what to do if the journey is too far to take your produce.  You can turn it into cash and when you arrive at the Temple, purchase whatever party supplies you want (including wine and strong drink!).  The tithe is about gratitude and honoring God for what we have.  And it is to be shared – shared within the community and with the priests (who do not have an allotment of land) and [every third year] with the sojourner [resident alien], the orphans and the widows.  They [those in need] are to eat their fill – because there is plenty enough for all.

In Deuteronomy 26, the tithe is detailed again, and this time the focus is on the liturgy related to the making of the offering.[88]  At the center of the liturgy is both God and the Land.  When the gift is placed on the altar, the following statement is to be made: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous.  When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.  So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me.[89]
This liturgy is the rehearsal of Israel’s salvation story.  It acknowledges, at an even deeper level than the previous text, that God is the source of every blessing.  It is not just what the land produces, but the fact that they are in the promised land itself.  Their freedom to live in the land has happened by the providential action of God.  It is a prayer of great thanksgiving, not unlike the moment of the Eucharist for the church, where the main actor is God and those Divine actions on our behalf are remembered with awe and gratitude.  To apply this to the church, it would be like repeating our confession of faith when we make an offering.  “I believe…” and so I respond. To make an offering is to worship God, and the ground of that worship is thanksgiving.

Here again, the inclusive nature of the gift and its recipients is repeated.  “Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and your house.”[90] There is enough for everyone to share because of God’s abundance.  Hospitality is extended beyond the normal boundaries of tribe and race because there is sufficient supply.  This is not simply a nice thing to do, but a command of God.

When the question is raised about the tithe and its value for the church, these understandings should not be overlooked.  The tithe establishes a community norm that is viewed as obtainable by all.  Church members often wonder what is an acceptable gift?  “How much should I give as an offering?”  The tithe sets a benchmark; it is a starting place.[91]  The tithe, when understood as worship, creates a moment to remember the source of blessings, our own salvation history, and an opportunity to respond to the grace we have received.

In some circles there is debate about whether a tithe should be made “on the net” or “on the gross.” For Israel, there was only “the gross.” However, if God’s people would do either with faithfulness, there would be plenty of resources so as to make such a question moot!  When the tithe is discussed, others want to maintain that we pay taxes that support many programs for the poor and thus “our share” should be adjusted accordingly.  It is good to recall that beyond the tithe, which was done annually on the total produce of the land, that each male was to come with an offering [different from the tithe] three times a year. No one was to come empty-handed!  This offering was made at the festival of unleavened bread, the festival of weeks, and the festival of booths.  The size of the gift was determined as each was able to give based on how they had been blessed.[92]  On top of this expectation was the practice of alms-giving.[93]  These were gifts that did not count in either the tithe or the offerings, which suddenly makes 10% instead of seeming like too much, look like a bargain!  Generosity was/is expected of God’s people.

Is the tithe (which is viewed by some as “under the Law”) required by the church (which views itself as living “under grace”)?  Nowhere does the Second Testament suggest that we are to do anything less in our giving than what was required prior to the arrival of Jesus. Paul advises in giving to the Jerusalem offering, each one should give according to how they have been blessed (reminiscent of the three annual offerings mentioned above), but nowhere do we read that this replaced the tithe.  To consider the tithe “law” is to not fully appreciate its intention (provision for the entire community) or recorded practice (celebration and gratitude).  We do not serve our cause well if we equate expectations with burdens, demands, or obligations.   That in many congregations we have established low expectations regarding giving, worship attendance, education, or other forms of participation and investment may well be related to an experience of decline in those same communities of faith.  While the tithe cannot be fully argued as being required of the church via Second Testament citation, the benefits of teaching the tithe seem to out-weigh any potential liabilities.[94]

Stewardship and the “Prosperity Gospel”:  The tithe is also mentioned in the book of Malachi.  Here the prophet, on behalf of God asks the question: “Would a man rob God?”[95]  The prophet answers that indeed the people are robbing God by their failure to give the “whole tithe.”   The indictment is followed with this promise: “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the lord of hosts: see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.”[96]

We understand this to be a specific statement to address a particular situation.  During a time of famine, the people (out of fear) withheld their full tithe offering, creating a self-imposed shortage in the very system that was designed to assure their sustenance. The problem (the presence of locusts) was not that God did not love them or care about them, but that they had failed to trust God, choosing instead to cling tightly to what they individually possessed.  Rather than establishing a quid pro quo [give and you will get], the statement “test me” is a call to action to give the full tithe – the result of doing so will be that there will be enough for all of the people.  Indeed, there will be an abundance so that no one is without.  The “test” is to trust the system God established of the tithe, which, when faithfully practiced, assures provision for all.

However, this passage has been used by some to suggest that the “test” is to give in such a way so as to entice God into giving more to the giver as a reward for giving.  By giving, the individual is assuring wealth and prosperity for themselves.  We see this as a difficult rendering of the Malachi passage and challenge the church to explore whether such an understanding is appropriate.   Given both the communal nature that pervades the biblical texts regarding blessing and salvation as well as the understanding that it is God’s nature to give without provocation or human endeavor, we find this approach fraught with difficulty.

There has been a growing movement since the middle of the 20th century, primarily within certain Evangelical and Pentecostal streams of Protestantism, which seeks to use this text as foundation for understanding giving as a way of getting more.[97]   Best identified as “the gospel of wealth” or “the prosperity gospel,”[98] a key component of this theological position is that it is God’s will to be physically well and financially well-off.  Further, proponents believe that such wellness and increase of wealth can be secured by strong faith (right belief), positive thinking/speech, and giving to religious causes.

Poverty and illness are understood within this school of thought to be the result of sin and/or spiritual forces.  Because of the cross, the belief is that there is no reason to be sick or poor.  The Bible is viewed almost as a contract that implies if a person does certain things certain ways (such as to tithe), God has to bless that person with health and prosperity.  While an over-simplification, the point becomes clear – within the prosperity gospel there is a quid pro quo: do this, then God will do that.  Give and God will bless you with greater wealth.  Giving in this belief system is not based on gratitude or response, but is motivated by a desire to increase personal [not communal] power or position.

We would not dispute that to give is to be blessed!  The very fact that one has something from which to give is a sign of God’s provision.  Further we can affirm that it is the nature of God’s economy that in giving, we do intrinsically receive more than what we have offered.   However, to suggest that God’s actions to bless are to be mandated based on our activities denies the very sovereignty of the Divine.  We cannot accept a position that teaches a collection of “magic words” or finding the “exact formula” of dollars to be given to charity that will cause God to bless any individual at the expense or in place of another. Additionally, we take exception to the restriction of God’s blessing to be seen only in the physical act of healing or via the increase in material goods.  The church should be suspicious of a belief system that seems to sanction the acquisitiveness of the culture and which places achieving material success ahead of service to others.

It creates tremendous theological issues as to what exactly is the nature of a god who would personally see to it that one can live in a mansion and drive a Rolls Royce while the neighbor goes without shelter or food.  We don’t deny the reality that this happens, just the belief that God sanctions it to be so.  It is inconsistent with the gospel and antithetical to the way the early church lived out its faith by seeing that no one among them had any need.

We affirm that our giving is a response to having already received.  In much the same way that the author of 1 John states that “We love, because God first loved us,”[99] we give because God first gave to us.  We understand our giving is not an attempt to manipulate God to act in our favor, but rather an acknowledgement that God has already acted in our favor [for the whole of creation], and we are grateful.  Further, as disciples who hope to see the Realm of God break deeper into our world, we see our giving as an agent of change and transformation – a sign of the spirit of God at work within us.

That God desires wholeness for all of creation is a given.  That the death and resurrection of Jesus is the ultimate testimony to God overcoming the power of death and conquering evil is unquestioned.[100] However, the Realm of God, while revealed, is not yet fully manifest among us.  Powers contrary to the work and will of God still hold influence in individuals and within structures that abuse and misuse material and human resources.  Systemic racism, for example, continues to oppress an entire class of people based on the color of their skin, denying opportunity and locking generations into crushing poverty and oppression.  It is not for their own lack of faith that people of color suffer in this system.  It is not because they fail to practice generosity that resources do not flow into their lives and neighborhoods.  This is where the “gospel of wealth” ultimately fails and where a different understanding of what it means to be a steward is needed for not only the sake of the church, but the world.  Stewardship is related to justice, as its faithful practice moves resources to promote and enable systemic changes toward that which affirms and secures human dignity.

Stewardship as Transformation:  We affirm that it is God’s good intention to bless the earth and all that is within it.  God’s desire is for all of creation to flourish and the human creatures have been entrusted with the responsibility to make it and keep it so.  When we have failed at this task, God has held us accountable through the admonitions of the prophets – and those same prophetic voices have simultaneously continued to hold out a vision of how the world is supposed to be.  The reward for living in the world on God’s terms is the very blessing we desire and God seeks to bring us abundance.  The consequences of choosing our own terms results in the brokenness and scarcity we fear most.

Our world is broken – but we also believe that it does not need to stay that way.  We believe that in the power of Jesus Christ, the in-breaking of the Realm of God has begun and cannot be turned away by any power or principality.  The question is, will we choose to be participants in its coming to fullness?  That God is at work on behalf of the poor, the disenfranchised, and the marginalized is without exception.  Luke proclaims, while Jesus is still in the womb, that through his ministry, “His [God’s] mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.  He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.  He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.”[101] The way things are is not the way they are supposed to be and – because of Jesus – they are not going to stay that way!

God’s intention is going to be fulfilled.  When John’s disciples come to Jesus with their inquiry on behalf of their imprisoned teacher, Jesus answers their question as to whether or not he [Jesus] is the one or should they look for another with a simple statement: “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news preached to them.”[102] The transformation is not just a promise for some distant time – in the ministry of Jesus it is becoming reality now.

In each of the synoptic gospels, Jesus commissions the disciples to do these same things.[103]  John’s gospel tells us that Jesus promised his followers would “do even greater things.”[104] The work of the disciples, and thus the work of the church in any age, is the work of Jesus.  By our actions, the Realm is further revealed and comes closer.  The Books of Acts demonstrates the ideal vision of the church operating under the full influence of the Holy Spirit.  A group that could best be described as fearing for their lives suddenly becomes emboldened by the Spirit on Pentecost, and they find their voices to proclaim the gospel (an act of stewardship).  Those who hear and respond to the message, now powered by the Spirit, forge an egalitarian community in which the worship of God, the adherence to the apostles teaching, the breaking of bread, and prayer are the hallmarks of their new life together.

The community demonstrates the presence of Jesus, both by the signs and wonders done by the apostles and by their “holding all things in common.”  Most importantly, they share from their resources: …they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.  Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.  And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.[105]

This is a word of encouragement to the church as it pertains to stewardship.  When the church proclaims the gospel and engages in sharing of its resources for the benefit of all, the church grows!  In a time when the church is seeking to find its place in a shifting culture, reclaiming stewardship may be the best way to find our footing going forward.  We can point people beyond the mere acquisitiveness of self-indulgence endorsed by our society to instead use their resources to transform not only their own lives, but the world in which they live.

After Thoughts:

Sources vary in their count, but most agree that the bible talks about money and related financial terms/issues about 2,300 times!  Many Second Testament scholars suggest that Jesus talks about money (and uses related financial terms/issues/examples) over 60% of the time.  To say that this topic is important within the Canon is no doubt an understatement.   To believe that we can cover this topic thoroughly in this document is wishful thinking.  We have attempted however, to give broad coverage, spanning both Testaments, from which we can draw some solid conclusions and offer direction for the church.

Because of the sheer volume of texts that relate to this topic, it may seem odd that the church in the last 50 or more years has attempted to keep the conversation about money and faith in separate, seemingly unrelated domains.  Beyond that, in yet another arena of taboo, the church has also intentionally segregated the necessary political ramifications of these teachings and their raw, unsettling power as they interface with empire and impact community.

Our faith tradition has long practiced a “confession of faith” in Jesus Christ that is an intimate expression of our aspiration to be in a reconciled relationship with God, and God’s provision in Jesus Christ to affect such a desire.   We in no way dispute, disparage, or disregard the nature of a personal relationship with Jesus!  However, a faith that is solely privatized is contrary to the actual biblical portrayal of faith as practiced within community in both the First and Second Testament, and seems to be the antitheses of the early church as described in the Book of Acts.  Private faith must still have public expression and significance beyond the individual.

The Christian faith of the contemporary Western world has, in some places, been distilled to a very individual and personal experience, disconnected from communal accountability, rendered devoid of any social welfare responsibility (which we might refer to as the “common good”), and segregated from certain material aspects of life. This is counter-intuitive to the practice of stewardship, which sees the individual as a part of a larger network of relationships.  For the Christian steward, the world is viewed through the wide-angle lens of “the whole” and the tangible benefit of community.

The church should consider the value of reemphasizing the communal nature of the faith that we share.  We recall that in both Testaments, salvation and blessing generally come not to individuals, but to communities.  The prayer of Jesus repeated every Sunday in most of our congregations makes this distinction.  “Our Father…Give us this day our daily bread…Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us…Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”  The hope for the Realm to come and the petitions for sustenance, faithfulness, and protection belong to the collective whole, not just the individual.  Whether it is the promise made to Abram that “…in you all the families of the earth will be blessed”[106] or the cosmic Christological claim in Colossians “…and through him [Jesus] God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross,”[107] the workings of God benefit individuals by their association with/in/through communities.

There may be substantial benefit for both the local congregation and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to think more clearly about ways to articulate and claim the necessity of being “members of one another” for authentic discipleship and true spirituality.  As we see worship participation shrinking in the beginning of the century and the definition of “regular” church attendance dropping from nearly four Sundays a month to less than two Sundays a month, we are clearly at risk of being less connected within congregations and across our covenantal relationships.  Are there ways we can encourage more interaction between members across our communities of faith?

Stated Assumptions:

Stewardship is a spiritual discipline, not a religious-sanctioned shorthand term for fundraising.  It is as essential to the process of faith development as study, worship, prayer, and service to others. The biblical understanding of stewardship is that it touches every aspect of our lives and is grounded in the abundant love and provision of God.

Stewardship is about choices, many but not all of which have financial implications and a connection to our possessions.  It is also about living in gratitude, understanding that all we have come to possess, share, and know is ultimately a gift from beyond our own individual capacity or agency.  Stewardship embraces the concept that life itself is a gift and measure of grace.

Understanding oneself as a steward is fundamental to Christian discipleship, indispensable to the creation of healthy communities, and necessary for fulfilling the practical command to love both self and neighbor.  Expressions of stewardship may be found in the intentional care for creation, the observance of Sabbath, the loving attention to our minds and bodies, the sharing of the gospel, and the appropriate management of our material resources.  This list is not meant to be exhaustive, but rather instructive and an entry point into deeper dialogue.

A church body that can only embrace a narrow view of stewardship as it relates to funding budgets, maintaining church property, and the operation/survival of the organization/institution will be self-focused, less able to freely share, and thus hindered in its efforts to fully love the neighbor, welcome the stranger, advocate for (and share with) the poor, and not as likely to break away from cultural norms that may diminish others.  Such a community is driven by the anxiety of scarcity, which often leads to hoarding and withdrawal from the neighbor and the stranger for fear of not having “enough” for itself. Its prophetic witness is moderated by the risk of alienating its members [contributors], who may find varying levels of comfort in the current culture and have investment (knowingly or unknowingly) in maintaining the status quo.

In contrast, a church body that is committed to the holistic practice of stewardship will, as a fruit of that devotion, not only be a careful manager of its resources, but also will be a witness to justice, a builder of community with the neighbor, a gracious place of welcome, an advocate for the poor and disenfranchised, and by nature, will find itself opposed to culturally-imposed definitions that delineate any human being as something less than a child of God.  Such a corporate body acts with confidence in speaking truth into the culture because it believes in the abundance and provision of God without the fear of scarcity.  It boldly lives out its mission and ministry.

It should not surprise us to learn that many recent studies confirm that within the marks of growing, healthy, and thriving religious communities the focus of ministry is directed “outward,” toward the neighborhood and larger circle surrounding the congregation’s context.[108]  Likewise, one consistent characteristic of struggling communities of faith is that their focus is almost entirely “inward” and self-serving (not necessarily with malice or intent) within the literal walls of the specific congregation or organization with an eye toward survival.  We ignore this correlation at our own peril.

It follows that churches and communities of faith who understand and live into a holistic sense of stewardship, including the practice of confident generosity, are likely to have resources for the mission that God has called them to perform.  They will also have the capacity to share resources (human and financial) with their covenantal partners across all expressions of the church to jointly enact the larger vision that God has given all of us: To be a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world

For Consideration:

  1. We should not be afraid to have high expectations about what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. The church must take seriously the study of holistic stewardship and teaching stewardship as an act of discipleship to its leaders, its members, and its affiliated partners.
  2. Pastors, elders, and elected officers should commit to growth in the personal practice of generosity, to lead by example and with integrity.
  3. The church, in all its expressions, should engage in an audit of its practices as they relate to environmental concerns. Consumption of energy, water, the use of renewable resources, the practice of “reduce, reuse, and recycle,” and efforts to tread more lightly upon the earth should be evaluated, and conservation measures put into place.  Congregations modeling such practices can then more effectively teach their members to do the same.
  4. The church should be encouraged to reflect about the acquisitive nature of our culture and the consequences of continuing to consume resources in ways that are not sustainable, and, in some cases, harmful to the environment and our brothers and sisters. How might we change our own expectations and behaviors around what is “enough”?  What is our prophetic responsibility to give voice to this issue in this time and place?
  5. Congregations should commit to a practice of generosity, and consider establishing a minimum goal of 10% of operational receipts to be invested beyond the immediate needs of the congregation. If we are going to teach the tithe, we must also practice it.
  6. Understanding that clarity of mission is essential to enlisting successful resource support, congregations and related organizations are encouraged to establish or reevaluate current plans for ministry to be certain they are still applicable to the congregation’s capacity and context. People give their time and money to organizations that they believe are making a difference and are responsible with their finances.
  7. As a matter of achieving financial wellness (and creating an environment of trust), congregations and related ministries of the church should invest in understanding industry-agreed-upon standards for the handling of money and financial resources. Known as “best practices,” issues of transparency, internal controls, audits, the creation of budgets, and the published reporting of all assets, liabilities, and fiscal policy should be followed and periodically reviewed (regardless of the size of the congregation or its annual receipts/expenses!).
  8. Because money often creates anxiety that impacts individuals and family systems, congregations should consider providing personal finance classes that teach the effective management of money and increase the capacity to practice generosity.
  9. The church should actively engage in teaching children, youth, and young adults about the power, proper use, beneficial aspects, detrimental risks, and effective management of money, as one portion of a deeper commitment to teaching biblical stewardship as a critical part of the faith development curriculum. This is a mission for the entire church, as the proper use of our resources (natural, human, and economic) is essential to the long-term health and well-being of the earth and all parts of God’s creation that call it home.
  10. Congregations might consider a year-round method to the stewardship conversation. Rather than seeing the annual campaign as a three-week sprint (and the only time the word stewardship is often mentioned), a more circumspect approach that keeps all aspects of stewardship in play over time may prove to be more effective.
  11. Communities of faith should consider the importance of having discussions with members about the importance of having a will and the congregation should have clear policies in place that would make receiving a testamentary gift a true blessing rather than a point of contention! Teaching stewardship, including stewardship at the end of life, could make receiving such gifts the norm rather than a surprise or rare occurrence. Such gifts can expand the ministry and mission of the congregation or church-related institution well into the future.  Until Jesus comes again, there will always be a need for the gospel and its related ministries of care and compassion.
  12. Congregations and other church-related organizations who hold assets should consider their own legacy plans and have clear polices in place as to how their mission and ministry will continue, should it becomes necessary to cease its visible presence.
  13. Prayerful reflection is needed on what it means to be a covenantal partner in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), with attention to the financial support of these common ministries we share that extend from our doorsteps to the ends of the earth. What is the nature of our relationship and how do we support each other so that our shared witness can reach its fullest expression?
  14. Mission and ministry priorities should drive financial decisions. Budgets should serve the church, not the other way around.  All organizational structures with fiduciary responsibilities across the church should be encouraged to adopt this as an operational policy and cultural practice.

 

Practical Applications of Stewardship in Our Time and Place in the 21st Century

A Broad Perspective of Stewardship in Context: Recent shifts in the socio-political spectrum draw attention to the need for holistic understandings of stewardship as the church seeks to negotiate its way in this changing landscape of the early 21st century. The rise of separatism in Western Europe, incursions by governments into the south China Sea, and the trend toward a political climate of nationalism in the United States all suggest global trends toward more isolating and greater privileged positions (economic power) being sought by nation states in competition (rather than cooperation) with each other. This ultimately undermines values witnessed to in both Testaments as signs of the presence of the Realm of God because: a) it is contrary to the radical welcome of hospitality (because nationalism raises the fear of the stranger from outside our boundaries), and; b) the sharing of economic gain by the whole community is abrogated due to a concentration of wealth to be controlled within a nation’s government and/or powerful elite.

Historical perspective suggests that as nations become more parochial and less cooperative across real and ideological boundaries regarding resources and the control of economic factors, the risk of conflict is heightened.  These circumstances often marshal resources toward non-life-giving purposes and, in escalated conflict, lead to the loss of life and damage to the environment.  Whether the conflict is “cold” or develops into a fully-waged war, such conditions usually impact the poor and the marginalized in disproportionate ways.[109]Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”[110]

If biblical stewardship suggests (and we believe it does) an alternative reality relative to the establishment of the beloved community, as well as the proper use of possessions for the sharing of wealth generated by the earth’s resources so that none are in need, then the church is necessarily an interested party with a needed voice in this context.

A Specific Example of Engaging a Social-political Issue Based on Stewardship Concerns: Potential impact to both the environment and the further overt concentration of wealth within the United States exists, as evidenced by a subtle rule change to the Congressional Budget that was passed with little public notice on January 3, 2017.  The rule relates to reporting the cost of transferring federal lands to local control. This seemingly innocuous piece of procedural legislation, while not doing so directly, makes it possible for future legislation that can place lands (currently held in the public trust as a legacy for all United States citizens) for sale to developers and to industry, creating privatized access and the potential for the land’s resources to be exploited for private gain.[111]  The church that is concerned about stewardship both as care for the earth and as proper management of resources for the common good will be compelled to speak to this issue.  It is one example how streams of stewardship issues converge – in this case, economic interests and care for the earth[112] – and how they have political implications.

These are two simple ways that suggest practical applications regarding the relevance of stewardship in this time and place.  The number of examples that may be cited is legion.  We offer these in the broad and narrow sense as a starting place for a future conversation within local, regional, and general expressions of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

Final Comment: The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) seems to be uniquely fitted for this time and place, especially as we seek to reach “the next generation.”  Study after study suggests that those who make up the generations we refer to as Millennials and Gen X have been turned off by religions that they see as banal, bigoted, and boring.  Our method of reading scripture implies you don’t have to have bad science to have good religion.  Our assertion of the radical welcome of God at the Table speaks boldly to a generation that wishes to rise above bigotry and the marginalization of people based on what they believe are tired and irrelevant social classifications.  Our structure, as one that is covenantal, fits with generations seeking authentic relationships over and against joining institutions. Our freedoms, as expressed in local autonomy give rise to worship, spiritual formation, and mission that fit contexts in the unique communities in which congregations are located.  At our best, we can be relevant and adaptive.

The truth of the matter is that we should be growing in this century, and we assume one of the reasons we are not doing so is the failure to effectively invite others into our story.  We are hiding our light under a bushel! Along with teaching the importance of faithful financial generosity to sustain the Church’s mission of reconciliation, in the 21st century we must rediscover our evangelistic zeal and fully embrace what it means to be a steward of the gospel.  This seems particularly important in a time of deep cultural division, which is where the church finds itself now when this document is presented for consideration.  We possess a great treasure of hope that calls people beyond anything that might separate us from the truth that we belong to God and thus to one another.

 

This vision of the prophet Isaiah (Chapter 55) is offered as a closing reflection:

Ho, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and you that have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
listen, so that you may live.
I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.
See, I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander for the peoples.
See, you shall call nations that you do not know,
and nations that do not know you shall run to you,
because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel,
for he has glorified you.

Seek the Lord while he may be found,
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake their way,
and the unrighteous their thoughts;
let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10 For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

12 For you shall go out in joy,
and be led back in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall burst into song,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial,
for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.[113]

 

The General Board recommends that the General Assembly ISSUE GA-1732 for study by the Church.

(Discussion time: 12 minutes)

[1] The Center for Faith and Giving envisions an access port via our website to videos, articles, essays, curriculum, an extensive bibliography, and a conduit to other collections of stewardship-related materials.  In many respects, the Center for Faith and Giving website currently operates in this regard.  However, this portal can serve as a central location where connections to stewardship-related ministries within the whole church can be identified and accessed.  For example, pointed connections on the Center for Faith and Giving website to the Green Chalice ministry within Disciples Home Missions can list assets and materials for those who visit the CFG site seeking earth-stewardship-related resources. A mirror index on the CFG website of these materials within Green Chalice would allow for easier access and quicker discovery.  By its very presence on the CFG site, it affirms holistic and a less fragmented view of stewardship.

 

[2] Gen 1:4; Gen 1:10; Gen 1:12; Gen 1:18; Gen 1:21; Gen 1:25

[3] Gen 1:31

[4] Gen 1:20, 1:24

[5] Gen 1:29-30

[6] Gen 1:28a

[7] Gen 1:28b

[8] Gen 1:3

[9] Ps 24:1

[10] Translation provided by Rev. Dr. Carol Johnston, Christian Theological Seminary.

[11] Gen 3:8

[12] Exod 16:15

[13] Exod 16:18

[14] Exod 16:20

[15] Matt 6:11;

[16] Exod 20:8-11

[17] Lev 25:1-7

[18] For more see Walter Brueggemann: Money and Possessions, Interpretation; John Knox Press 2016. pp15-33.

[19] Exod 5:15

[20] For additional consideration of this idea, see Sabbath As Resistance, Walter Brueggemann, John Knox Press, 2014.

[21]Rev 21:1

[22] Rev 21:3

[23] Rev 21:6

[24] Rom 12:1

[25] 2 Cor 4:7

[26] 1 Cor 6:19

[27] 1 Pet 4:10, translation: Rev. Dr. Ronald J. Allen, Christian Theological Seminary

[28] Rom 8:38-39

[29] Matt 5:15

[30] John 1:41

[31] The cross of St. Andrew is emblazoned upon our chalice as a reminder of our Scottish Presbyterian roots; Andrew is the Patron Saint of Scotland.

[32] Mark 1:28; 1:45; 2:7; 5:20; 6:56; and 7:36-37 as examples.

[33] Matt 28:20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47

[34] Matt 10:7; Mk 6:12; Lk 9:2

[35] Matt 6:24

[36] Matt 19:16-30; Mk 10:17-31; Luke 18:18-30

[37] Mark 10:21

[38] Exod 20:4

[39] Josh 24

[40] Gen 3:1

[41] Matt 6:19-21

[42] 1 Tim 6:10

[43] Luke 12:13-21

[44] Dr. Eric Law, Holy Currencies; Chalice Press, St. Louis, MO. 2013 p. 133ff

[45] ibid

[46] Reported by Oxfam and CBS Evening News on January 17, 2017.  Bill Gates, $75 billion; Amancio Ortega, $67 billion; Warren Buffett, $60.8 billion; Carlos Slim Helu, $50 billion; Jeff Bezos, $45.2 billion; Mark Zuckerberg, $44.6 billion; Larry Ellison, $43.6 billion; Michael Bloomberg, $40 billion.  This is said to equal the economic power of 3.6 billion people, or roughly one half of the world’s population.

[47] Amos 2:6-7; 5:10-12; 6:3-7, 12; 8:4-6; IS 2:1-11; Micah 2:1-5; 6:9-15

[48] Catholic Encyclicals dating back to 1891 Rerum Novarum take up the cause of the poor. Most recently Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ links the suffering of the poor to the environment devastation we have unleashed upon the earth and its impact on the impoverished who suffer from its effects on their land (climate change) and within their bodies (pollution). All of this is within a sound condemnation for unbridled consumerism and its effect on both spiritual and physical wellbeing.  Disciples should note in our own history in this area of concern that includes GA 8735 “Economic Systems – Their Impact on the Third World – A Beginning Study” which contains a section on Christian Affirmations: The Judeo-Christian tradition emphasizes special concern for the poor and further states A Christian will require any economic system to give and account of how it will improve the lot of the poor. (Paragraph 39)

[49] Matt 19:24; Mark 10:25; Luke 18:25

[50] Luke 12:48

[51] Deut 24:19-22; Lev 19:9-10

[52] Deut 24:6, 10-13

[53] Deut 15:1-3; Deut 23:19-20. Also, see Lev 25:35-37 and Exod 22:25.

[54] Deut 24:17-18; James 5:4

[55] Deut 15:1-11; see also Lev 25:10

[56] Deut 14:28-29; Deut 26:12. In addition, the following texts (among others) emphasize the importance of giving to the poor: Prov 19:17; Prov 22:9; 14:21; Prov 21:13; Is 58:7-8; Heb 12:16; Matt 5:42; 1 Tim 5:8; Luke 3:11; Jas 1:27

[57] Deut 15:7-8, 10-11; This text is also restated by Jesus in Matt 5:42.

[58] Deut 30:15-20

[59] Acts 2:43-47; 4:32-37

[60] James 2:1-10

[61] James 2:14-16

[62] It is not completely clear if this offering is specifically for the poor in Jerusalem proper, or if this offering is to be received by the Jerusalem church which will serve as a clearing house for the distribution of this money.  If it is the latter, one could argue the idea of a common mission fund, such as Disciples Mission Fund, has its origin in scripture. Either way, the idea of a disciplined and intentional offering for those beyond the immediate context of the local community yet done in partnership with other communities of faith is compelling for the Christian Church which understands its mission to be “From our doorsteps to the end of the earth”.

[63] 1 Cor 16:1-2

[64] He will later stake is own reputation on their ability to practice generosity along with their pride. 2 Cor 9:3-5

[65] Exod 16:18

[66] 2 Cor 8:9

[67] 2 Cor 9:7

[68] 2 Cor 9:11

[69] Gal 5:22

[70] Rom 12:8

[71] Rom 12:12

[72] Acts 4:34-37

[73] Acts 9:36-43

[74] The Paradox of Generosity: Giving We Receive, Grasping We Lose, Christian Smith & Hilary Davidson, Oxford Press, 2014.

[75] Prov 11:24-25

[76] When Jesus addresses the disciples in the gospels, it is understood that he is likewise addressing the church.

[77] Matt 14:13-21; Mark 6:31-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6: 5-15

[78] Luke 17:15

[79] Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4

[80] ibid

[81] Luke 16:19-31

[82] Matt 25:34-37

[83] While there is some indication in the Greek that would suggest that this applies specifically to the community of the church, there is no stated restriction that would keep such a practice from being extended to the entire community.  The tradition in Deuteronomy, as an example, includes all in who are in the land related to issues of justice, care for the poor, and Sabbath observance.

[84] Luke 9:62

[85] Revelation 3:15-16 Here “cold or hot” is not so much a matter of enthusiasm as it is a level of commitment.

[86] Gen 14:17-20

[87] Deut 14:22-24

[88] Deut 26:1-15

[89] Deut 26:5-10

[90] Deut 26:11

[91] We say a starting place because it is clear, that at least within ancient Israel, multiple offerings were made beyond the tithe.  This would make the tithe “the floor” rather than the ceiling!  At the same time, 10% may seem to great a sum for people not in the regular practice of giving.  In such a case, the tithe becomes a “first goal” toward which one might grow, perhaps a percent or two at a time.

[92] Deut 16:16-17

[93] Alms giving is referred to in the deuterocanonical books of Tobit and Sirach, as well as being mentioned in Matthew, Luke, and Acts.

[94] For further reflection on the potential resources created by teaching and practicing the tithe, see Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Don’t Give Away More Money; Smith, Emerson, Snell. Oxford Press, 2008.

[95] Mal 3:8 (KJV)

[96] Mal 3:9-10

[97] Additional texts often sited include Luke 6:38; Luke 11:9; James 1:5, among others.

[98] It can also be named the “health and wealth gospel” or “gospel of success”.  Earliest proponents can be traced back into the late 19th century, but the more prominent purveyors of this ideology arose during the 1950s within the Pentecostal healing traditions.   Oral Roberts, Rev. Ike, A.A. Allen, and Jim Bakker were key figures in the later half of the 20th century.  Early in the 21st century, Joel Osteen, Bruce Wikinson, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Bishop Eddie Long, Joyce Meyer, and Creflo Dollar are among many names that have risen to prominent association with this theology.  Leaders of this movement have even been the subject of a congressional investigation regarding a possible conflict between their lavish lifestyles and the organization’s tax exempt status.

[99] 1 John 4:19

[100] Col 1:20

[101] Luke 1:50-53

[102] Luke 7:22-23

[103] Matt 10:5-15; Mark 6:7-13; Luke 9:1-6

[104] John 14:12 We should note that this does not necessarily mean they would be more powerful than Jesus, but rather by the sheer multitude of “realm agents” turned loose by the multiplication of disciples, more [greater] work would be accomplished.

[105] Acts 2:45-47

[106] Gen 12:3

[107] Col 1:20

[108] Barbara Lynn Fullerton, Growing Generosity: Identity as Stewards in the United Church of Canada, May 2009.

[109] At the most basic level, resource allocation to the military/industrial complex in times of international conflict directs resources away from meeting basic social needs of the poor including nutrition support, health care, and housing.  But it is not only the poor.  This redistribution of economic priorities also impacts those things that enrich life for the mainstream of the country including parks and recreation, the arts, general infrastructure, investment in non-military research, and education.  When the conflict becomes a war, those civilians caught in the wake of battle as” collateral damage” are left homeless, without basic resources, and become refugees, often at the mercy of foreign governments to provide aid and comfort.

[110] Attributed to Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th president of the United States.

[111] David Horsey, The Los Angeles Times, January 5, 2017.

[112] This is further exacerbated in a political context that seeks environmental deregulation in mining, forestry, and other heavy industry because it is perceived to increase cost and limit production.

[113] This, and all scripture citations in this document, are from the NRSV @1989 National Council of Churches of Christ.

GA-1701 General Assembly including Office of General Minister and President

GA-1701

General Assembly
of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Including the Office of General Minister and President

Download PDF

Antonio Rodriguez, Moderator
Tom Perring, First Vice Moderator; Mary Lou Kegler, Second Vice Moderator
Sue Morris, Moderator-Elect
Sharon E. Watkins, General Minister and President

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada
PO Box 1986, Indianapolis, Indiana 46206-1986
Telephone (317) 635-3100

~~~~

We are Disciples of Christ, a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world.
As part of the one body of Christ, we welcome all to the Lord’s Table
as God has welcomed us.

Our Vision is to be a faithful and growing church that demonstrates
true community, deep Christian spirituality and a passion for justice. Micah 6:8

Our Mission is to be and share the good news of Jesus Christ,witnessing, loving and serving from our doorsteps to the ends of the earth. Acts 2:8

Our Imperative is to strengthen congregations for this mission

~~~~

Called by God’s covenant of love, the Office of the General Minister and President (OGMP) convenes the church in mutual accountability for witness and service.

~~~~~

General Minister and President

Mission First

Mission First is a collaborative effort across the life of the church involving members of congregations, regions and general ministries. It seeks a shared mission priority and shared engagement in God’s mission.

Over eighty Mission Gatherings took place in 2016 in all but four regions in regional assemblies and clusters, among Disciples Women, youth, college students, National Convocation, NAPAD and Hispanic and Bilingual Fellowship. Nearly 3000 Disciples participated in the small group experience and responded to three questions in discussion and writing.

Analysis of the responses by a contract researcher and others, including Chapman College students, used the following methodology: Three hundred representative early responses were read closely to identify frequently occurring words, phrases and ideas which were organized into a framework of categories and sub-categories. All remaining responses were read and coded according to the sub-categories. In a final report, frequencies of responses were presented for all respondents and for various demographic groups such as gender, race, or age.

The report of Mission Gatherings was presented to the Mission Council, December 2-4, 2016. With keynote inspiration from the Rev. Dr. Moiseraele Prince Dibeela of Botswana, South Africa, the Mission Council discerned a shared mission priority for our Church working with and for children, youth, and young adults. The Mission Council also urged the church to continue to provide protection and care for the vulnerable, create communities of healing, learning and transformation; and resist racism and other forms of injustice.

The Mission First pilot now calls for the Mission Council to facilitate strategic planning across ministry lines for implementing and resourcing the church’s shared mission priority together.

Evaluation of the Mission First! initiative, both as church-wide mission discernment and as a governance model, will include review of the Mission Gatherings, the experience of the Administrative Committee functioning as General Board (or Governance Board in the new model) and the effectiveness of the Mission Council in determining mission and charting a direction for implementing mission together. The OGMP and Moderator team propose that another biennium of experience with the model is needed in order to write the proper new rules and Design changes.

Thanks to the Mission First Implementation Team (Lonora Graves, chair, Mark Anderson, Denise Bell, Lynnette Li, John Mobley, Cathy Nichols, Bernice Rivera, Tony Rodriguez) for their creativity and guidance in the Mission Gathering process. Thanks to the Mission Council Planning Group (LaTaunya Bynum, Gilberto Collazo, Ron Degges, Rebecca Hale, Bill Spangler-Dunning, Paul Tche, Cathy Myers Wirt) for planning a truly inspirational Mission Council.

Racist Language Audit

The report of the Racist Language Audit Task Force, Sandhya Jha, chair, is one of the most significant documents of the Church in recent years. OGMP senior staff has reviewed the report and proposed a timeline of response. Communication is ongoing with the various ministries who will have the opportunity to respond to recommendations in the report. (GB-16-0977)

Governance Committee of the General Board

The Governance Committee is working on three major issues: Removing Congregations from the Yearbook for Cause or Inactivity (forwarded by the College of Regional Ministers), issues arising from the Racist Language Audit of Governance Documents (resulting from General Assembly resolution GA-1328), concerns of the Hispanic Ministries Board (raised in a letter to the General Board in January 2015). Changes to the Design or other governance documents resulting from the Mission First! initiative will be their focus in the next period.

Transitions and Travel

The GMP’s role with regional transitions was particularly active in this period as one fourth of the regions are in some phase of leadership transition, including four regional ministers retiring at once – the most anyone can remember at one time. Attendance at the National Convocation Biennial Session, the Hispanic Assembly and the NAPAD Convocation along with the National Youth Event and the World Council of Churches Central Committee in Trondheim, Norway, made for a busy summer 2016, followed by the fall regional assembly season.

General Assembly

The OGMP General Assembly team meets regularly to plan for all areas of the assembly.  Planning for worship, education, communications and logistics are all on schedule. The local arrangements committee, led by Dale Pellman is well staffed and ready to welcome visitors from around the world to the Indiana region.

We are pleased to share that our early registration numbers are outpacing the last three assemblies.  The new registration system is helping to make registration less cumbersome and requires less staff time to manage. We currently have 433 registrations.  Here are some of the demographics of those registered:

Total Registered as of 1/17/17          433
Adult                                               403
Seminarian                                       12
School Age                                        7
Young Adult                                       6
Youth                                                 4
Pre-School                                         1

Race:
African American                            19
Asian American                                2
Caucasian                                    364
Hispanic                                           3
Multi-racial                                        8
Native American                               1
Other Ethnicities                             36

Ministerial Status:
Commissioned                               18
Lay / Non-Clergy                          188
Ordained                                      223
Visiting Clergy                                  4

Age:
Under 40                                        56 registrants
40 – 49                                           73 registrants
50 – 59                                           87 registrants
60+                                               218 registrants (oldest registrant is 95)

Various task forces created by business items at the 2015 General Assembly have been meeting and will present business items to the 2017 general assembly.

Communication Ministries

Over the last year, Communication Ministries was engaged in the following activities most often partnering with or facilitating collaboration among ministries – especially the general ministries of the church:

Mission First! Furthering the priority of the Church “to be … the Good News” with a passion for justice.

  • managing communication: weekly prayer prompts, monthly updates, Mission Gathering reports including some translation,
  • social media and special reporting after Mission Council meeting;
  • serving on implementation team to assist with data gathering, etc. Production of video.

GMP Search Committee Furthering the priority of the Church to be pro-reconciling and build true community

  • Assisting with distribution of communications and translations including survey material
  • Drafting an introduction plan for nominee in coordination with search committee

Websites Furthering the priority of the Church to build true community and share in justice

  • Completed in-house facelift of disciplesmissionfund.org and centerforfaithandgiving.org
  • Ga.disciples.org 2017 theme launched in June 2016; registration live July 2016
  • Continued support for missionfirst.disciples.org and other ministry websites

Reconciliation Ministry Furthering community and sharing of resources

  • Assisted with communication during absence of Reconciliation Ministry executive
  • Collaboratively managed production of Reconciliation Ministry special offering materials

Communicator Forum Furthering community and sharing of resources across ministries

  • Collaboration on new introductory videos for 15 ministries for disciples.org and for use at the 2017 General Assembly;
  • Collaborate with Chalice Press and other ministries for Annual Planning Guide and online calendar

General Assembly Furthering the Church’s priority of true community and a passion for justice

  • Implementation of communication plan: social media, paper mailings, electronic newsletters and advertising
  • Promotional materials on the website include video, PowerPoint, worship materials and logos for download

Other activities

  • Monitoring and posting in social media
  • Producing the Disciples News Service (weekly, general audience) and Disciples Together (pastors, twice a month) e-letters
  • Quarterly meetings in support of National Council of Churches communication staff
  • Received funding from Oreon E. Scott Foundation for translations of The Design and Standing Rules of the General Assembly are up to date in Spanish, French and Korean.

Disciples Mission Fund Furthering community through shared mission

  • Sent thank-you letters to top givers to Disciples Mission Fund and collaborated on letters enclosed with quarterly reports to congregations
  • Managed production and distribution of special day offering web presence and printed materials – Easter, Pentecost, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
  • Convened group of recipients to discuss trends in electronic offering promotions
  • Attended Christian Church Foundation Development Conference for strategic approaches and networking; met with Center for Faith and Giving to discuss strategy.

Treasury Services

OGMP Treasury Services’ team has expanded to 7 ½ members. We have partnerships in providing integrated accounting with: (9) entities of OGMP, (6) ministries: Council on Christian Unity, Christian Church Services, National City Christian Church Foundation, College of Regional Ministers, Disciples of Christ Historical Society, and Central Pastoral Office for Hispanic Ministries, and (15) regions: Florida, Greater Kansas City, Upper Midwest, Illinois-Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky, Northwest, Mid-America, Capital Area, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Central Rocky Mountain, Southwest, Oklahoma, and Great River.  The team completed the 2015 audit with new auditors for the first time in 11 years. OGMP TS continues the challenge of fully implementing several pieces of integrated software such as contribution/distribution, credit card/expense/travel, paperless and accounting that started in late 2015.

 

Year Book and Directory
Office of General Minister and President
1099 N. Meridian Street
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204
Howard E. Bowers, Editor
hbowers@disciples.org

The Year Book and Directory provides the annual listing of ministries recognized as part of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The Year Book also maintains a listing of those congregations, regions, general ministries, and Disciples’ related organizations and institutions and certifies to the Internal Revenue Service that they are capable of receiving tax deductible contributions.

Each year, the Disciples are augmented by new congregations recognized by their respective regions.  In 2016, 17 new congregations were officially recognized. The following are the number of new congregations per region:

California-Nevada, North              2                   Mid America                       1

Canada                                        2                   Nebraska                           1

Central Rocky Mountain               1                   Northeastern                      1

Indiana                                        1                   Southwest                          5

Kansas City, Greater                    1                   Upper Midwest                     1

Kentucky                                     1

The Year Book also works with regions to maintain an accurate listing of congregations by acknowledging congregational losses in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  In 2016, 74 congregations were removed from the official list of congregations:   51 congregations were listed as closed, 20 congregations withdrew, 2 congregations had the region withdraw recognition of their status, 1 congregation were removed through the process outlined in GA 9516.

Of the number listed above, 17 were formation congregations.  Those congregations were removed from the listing because:  12 closed, 3 withdrew, 2 were removed from regional under care status.

The Year Book also lists ministers with standing in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  This listing is provided by the Office of Search and Call in Disciples Home Missions.  6,642 ministers were listed with denominational standing.

 

Christian Church Services, Inc.
PO Box 1986
Indianapolis, IN 46206
317-713-2405
Sharon E. Watkins, President
Todd Adams, Board Chair
Sharon Coleman, Staff

Christian Church Services (CCS) is the umbrella corporation that coordinates the shared services of the Disciples Center. Since the last assembly, the ministries housed in Disciples Center have settled into their new offices. CCS oversaw the negotiations, build out and relocation of the Disciples Center. Management of the building is now handled by Cushman & Wakefield – a global real estate company. Cushman & Wakefield have dedicated staff with offices in our building to address any questions or concerns. A representative from their staff, typically the Vice President, meets annually with the CCS board to discuss improvements and ongoing projects.

The CCS board is comprised of the general ministry presidents from each ministry housed in the building.  The board meets 1-2 times annually to review finances, set and approve budgets, approve holidays and closing dates, and evaluate the management of the building.  Rick Reisinger served as board chair for 2015-2016. Todd Adams was elected chair at the December 2016 meeting. Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President continues as President.

The Office of the General Minister and President renewed its contract with CCS for two years. Key leadership is provided by Sharon Coleman for management of the building operations and John Goebel for management of the finances.

 

 Center for Faith and Giving
Standing Committee
Spring 2017 Report

Our Members: Robin Hedgeman (BFC), Erin Wathen (WFC) [Vice Chair], Eric Farris (WML) [Chair], Sam Ramirez (HMC), Denise Bell (BFC), Ron Degges* (WMC), Gary Kidwell* (WMC), Sharon Watkins* (WFC), Bruce Barkhauer (WMC) [Director]. *Denotes Ex-officio member.

Our Vision: To create a culture of generosity across the life of the whole church.

Our Mission: To encourage and promote the understanding of stewardship as a faith discipline and life practice in response to a generous God.

Our Work: Involves the creation and curation of stewardship related resources for and by the church.  This includes educational materials on the biblical and theological underpinnings of stewardship, the teaching of “best practices” relating to congregational and personal financial wellness, the coaching and encouraging of pastors and lay leaders, and the joint sharing of the latest stewardship trends and understandings with our ecumenical partners.  Simply put, we teach generosity and the conditions that allow it to flourish.

Notable activity in the last year includes the publication of Community of Prayer (Christian Board of Publication) authored by our Director, Bruce Barkhauer.  This book is a 29-day stewardship devotional, designed to accompany readers on a journey toward generosity utilizing a daily encounter with scripture, meditation, and prayer.  It will find its most effective use in congregations who use it as a preparation for either an annual or capital financial campaign.

Our annual campaign material “Go and Do the Same” was widely used across the church and new material for 2017 “The Journey to Generosity” is now available.  In 2016, the United Church of Christ Office on Stewardship and Philanthropy commissioned an adapted version of “Go and Do the Same”.  Sales were brisk and we are negotiating a similar arrangement for 2017.

Stepping Into Stewardship was a joint event with the United Church of Christ in 2016, that brought a tremendous group of stewardship leaders from across the country together for a three-day seminar in Orlando, FL.   While the event suffered financially (see our financial report), it was incredibly valuable to those in attendance and significant toward strengthening our partnership with the UCC.  A similar event is being planned for Dallas, TX in 2018 under the umbrella of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center. This arrangement should protect us better financially, while furthering our UCC partnership.  More events with the UCC are being planned for 2017 with the CFG as a paid contract resource.

With the awarding of an Oreon E. Scott Grant, the Center for Faith and Giving was able to begin the “Generosity Network” a cadre of leaders who will provide an extension of the Center’s ministry within participating Regions.  In 2016 we began the training of 15 leaders from 15 Regions who will comprise the first class of trained stewardship resource agents.  We look forward to expanding in the number of participants in 2018 for which we are seeking an additional grant.

The Center is serving as a resource in the execution of several of the national Lilly Grants on Clergy and Finance.  Our Director serves as a mentor in the Indiana Region’s Flourish program, and as a presenter for the Pension Fund’s grant in its Lexington Theological Seminary venue. CFG will also resource the Ohio Region’s Lilly Grant, (details pending). This means both exposure for the Center as well as income.  The Director also serves on a team engaged with a Lilly funded study on bi-vocational ministry, housed at Lexington Theological Seminary. (This position is without remuneration.)

Director Barkhauer continues to teach graduate studies in stewardship as an adjunct faculty member for Claremont School of Theology, Disciples Seminary Foundation, and Lexington Theological Seminary as well as having been a guest lecturer at Christian Theological Seminary.

The most important work continues to be maintaining a central point of resource curation and access through our website, and via our Director, the building of relationships across the church by providing a workshop leader, preacher, and resource person for stewardship and generosity within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). We have active partnerships with the Christian Church Foundation, Church Extension, Hope Partnership, The Pension Fund, Homeland Ministries, Higher Education and Leadership Ministries, and most of our 32 Regions.

 

College of Regional Ministers
Report to the Administrative Committee

President Cathy Myers Wirt, Oregon and SW Idaho
President Elect, Greg Alexander, Kentucky
First Vice President, Bill Spangler-Dunning, Upper Midwest
Second Vice President, Susan Gonzales-Dewey, Pacific SW
Secretary, Pamela Holt, Oklahoma

The College of Regional Ministers is made up of the lead staff members of each of the regional churches and the leaders of the three Ethnic Ministries and meets 2-3 times annually for spiritual renewal, mutual encouragement, continuing education, and matters of church oversight and service.  On non-General Assembly years, the CRM holds a meeting in the summer which includes the Moderators of each of the regional churches for community building and skill building.  The CRM also meets for a meal function at each General Assembly and invites the former members of the CRM and their spouses to the function at a reduced cost to continue the ties of friendship and fellowship within this group of church leaders.

The officers of the CRM, known as the CRMX, meet 6-8 times a year online for business between the formal meetings of the CRM.  Officers of the CRM are elected for a two year term of service during the off General Assembly year gathering in the summer.

The funds of the CRM are managed by the OGMP Office.  The CRM work is funded through annual dues contributed by the regional churches, invested funds, and regional church budgets through voluntary work done by its members.

One of the challenges/opportunities of the CRM is the high level of turnover in the membership.  Six members have served between 21-12 years; eight of the members have served between 9-4 years; ten of the members have served 2 years or less; and seven regions are served by interim ministries.  This translates into the reality that half of the CRM has been in position 2 years or less.

Highlights of 2016-2017

  • CRM met in April and in August of 2016. Guests from the General Ministries Cabinet were in attendance for a portion of the April meeting.  The CRM will meet in 2017 following the General Board meeting February 28-March 2 and again in November for 3 days in Indianapolis.  Meetings for 2018 will be set following the March 2017 CRM meeting.
  • Approximately half to the CRM attended the Developer’s Conference hosted by Christian Church Foundation in January in California. CCF hosted a track through the conference specifically for the needs of the CRM.  Effort was made through scholarship funding to encourage the newer half of the CRM to be in attendance to receive this valuable information.
  • John Mobley (Alabama NW Florida) assists in the assigning of CRM senior members to assist Regional Churches in transition of staff. Currently the following regions are in transition:  Nebraska, Kansas, Southwest, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia.  Great Rivers Region and Central Rocky were in transition during 2016 and called new Regional Ministers in the past few months.  This leaves six regions in interim and one region (Pennsylvania) in a partnership with West Virginia.  Coaches for the regions assist General Minister and President, Sharon Watkins, to move through interim and permanent staff selection.
  • Ten Regional Ministers represent the CRM on the Mission Council. Eight of the ten attended the December Mission Council meeting in Texas and offered leadership in planning, facilitating, and follow up work from the meeting.
  • Ruth Fletcher (Montana) and John Mobley (Alabama NW Florida) represent the CRM on the Administrative Committee.
  • The CRM maintains a webpage for the public to learn about their work with a private area for confidential business. The CRM also maintains an active listserv system for fluid and quick communication.
  • Susan Gonzales-Dewey (Pacific SW) attended the Moderators August meeting (Forum of Regional Moderators) planned and led by Sotello Long (South Carolina) in order to prepare to lead the 2018 meeting. Susan has initiated, and is encouraging, the networking of the Regional Moderators.  The Moderators have elected officers and plan to gather at the 2017 General Assembly.
  • LaTaunya Bynum (Northern California Nevada) is conducting a survey among the CRM membership to learn the level of training of each member in the Anti-Racism/Pro-Reconciliation work of the whole church. She will also learn about the structures within the regions that move this work forward.  Anti-Racism Training appropriate to the soon to be assessed actual need of the CRM will be offered at the November 2017 meeting and an Anti-Racism Team of the CRM will create a plan for this work moving forward.  With so much transition in the CRM in the past 3 years, this work needed to be reframed for the future.
  • Twelve of the General Units have at least one Regional Minister on their Board of Directors/Trustees, Regional Ministers serve on all of the Ethnic Ministries boards, Disciples Women Leadership, Reconciliation, Week of Compassion and General Commission on the Ministry. Four Disciples Colleges and six Disciples Seminaries have Regional Ministers on their boards.

Goals moving into 2017-2018 include forming a deep and collegial relationship with the new GMP; increasing skill building opportunities for our membership; reengaging at a deeper level our anti-racism work; and continuing to find ways forward in collaboration with all the ministries of our whole church that we may be a CRM that helps to bind together the work of the whole church and the congregations through mutual relationship, vision and action.

 

Disciples Center for Public Witness
Rev. Dr. Ken Brooker Langston
Five Thomas Circle
Washington, DC 20005
202-797-0113
disciplescenter@verizon.net
www.disciplescenter.org
www.centerblog.org

The Disciples Center for Public Witness is doing very well.  Our advocacy team is effective, our leadership is engaged, our partnerships are strong, our supporters are invested and generous, our volunteers are talented and committed, and our finances are sufficient to support our two-fold mission:  informing, connecting, and empowering Disciples and other people of faith for ecumenical and interfaith justice advocacy in the United States and Canada; and applying to public policy issues and concerns our denomination’s passion for justice, our vision of true community, and our commitment to wholeness in a fragmented world.

Partnership Ministries:  Much of the work of the Center is carried out in partnerships, networks, and coalitions.  One of our main partnership ministries is Refugee and Immigration Ministries (RIM), a ministry of Disciples Home Missions (DHM) in partnership with the Center and the Christian Church Capital Area (CCCA).  RIM is actively involved in education, action, and advocacy on issues related to the rights of immigrants, refugees, and farm workers.  Highlights include:  protecting refugee rights in the face of many anti-refugee bills, especially those that seek restrictions based on religion and/or locations from which refugees have come; responding to the crisis of unaccompanied minor children from Central America with, among other things, a prayer vigil outside the White House and a “Shadow Summit” at the same time as the President’s official Refugee Summit; supporting the New Sanctuary Movement, highlighting as an example the reception by University Church of Hyde Park (Chicago, IL) of an immigrant facing possible deportation;  standing in solidarity with farm workers who seek fairer pay, better working conditions, humane treatment, and recognized representation, primarily those working on farms related to companies that buy and use such products as tomatoes, berries, and tobacco; and working with churches and various faith-based organizations to advocate for more humane and just immigration policies and, especially, to advocate against those policies that tear families apart.

Another partnership ministry is the Ecumenical Poverty Initiative (EPI), a ministry the Center shares with national, state, regional, and local ecumenical groups and various faith-based organizations in the United States.  Recent EPI activities include:  successfully working with other faith-based organizations to urge all candidates seeking their party’s nomination for President of the United States to produce a video sharing with people of faith and the general  public their views on poverty; helping shape the “We Say Enough” campaign in which religious and other community leaders were brought together in virtual mass meetings to discuss the intersection of race and economic justice; engaging churches, clergy, and faith-based advocates in states across the country to take action against payday lending; participating in meetings on Capitol Hill dealing with the potential negative effects on economically vulnerable families and persons by the repeal of the American Care Act; and initiating a sign-on letter about the serious questions and concerns shared by many people of faith about the positions of the incoming Administration on issues of race, poverty, and health care.

Still another example of our partnership ministries is Human Rights Ministries (HRM), a partnership with Disciples Home Missions which focuses on such issues as criminal justice reform, torture, the death penalty, human trafficking, gun violence, and the rights of Native Americans (United States) and First Nations (Canada).  Before the 2016 elections, criminal justice reform was making a good deal of progress as a bipartisan effort; but now, with new leadership in the White House and at the Department of Justice, the future of this effort is uncertain.  On another front, public and federal government support for the land rights of indigenous peoples has been slowly but surely increasing in both the United States and Canada, often with people of faith taking the lead in promoting this support.

A final example of our partnership ministries is Racial Justice Advocacy, a partnership with Disciples Home Missions and Reconciliation Ministries that works with our ecumenical and interfaith partners to identify, analyze, and eradicate racism, primarily in the United States.  One of the projects of this partnership ministry is the formation and staffing of a task force that evaluates and responds to both U.S. public policy and the social witness of our church in light of racial justice as understood in relation to the emphases of Black Lives Matter.  This work has become especially crucial in light of the number of persons of color whose deaths have resulted from police action and the increase in the instances of racially motivated intimidation and violence during and since the 2016 elections.

Partners in Ministry:  Within the denomination, the Center works closely not only with the Office of the General Minister and President, Disciples Home Missions, Reconciliation Ministries, Week of Compassion, and the National Benevolent Association, but also with a number of ministries that deal with specific issue areas that have strong justice advocacy components or implications:  these include Disciples Women (human trafficking, violence against women, and paycheck fairness), Family and Children’s Ministries (Family Medical Leave, day care, public education, and children’s nutrition programs), Green Chalice (global warming, wildlife preservation, clean air and water, and national parks and monuments), and the Yakama Mission (the political rights of indigenous persons, the protection of the lands of indigenous peoples, and exposing and countering the harmful effects of the Doctrine of Discovery on our laws and public policies).

Coalitions:  The Center also provides Disciples presence at, participation in, and leadership to a large number of coalitions, the main ones being Creation Justice Ministries (climate change, endangered species, public lands, water justice, clean air), Interfaith Worker Justice (wage theft, minimum wage, worker safety, and the right to organize unions), the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (Guantanamo, solitary confinement, violence against Muslims, and torture sanctioned and/or practiced by the United States), the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (the rights of women to full knowledge about and full access to the full range of options and procedures related to reproductive health care), the Coalition Against Religious Discrimination (religious liberty in workplaces and prisons, religion in public schools, and vouchers for religious schools), Kairos Canada (First Nations, migrant justice, gender justice, and creation care), and Citizens for Public Justice (poverty, refugees, and climate change in Canada).

With and through Refugee and Immigration Ministries, the Center also participates in the Interfaith Immigration Coalition (immigration reform and welcome for refugees) and the National Farm Worker Ministry (fairer pay, better working conditions, humane treatment and officially recognized representation for farm workers, primarily on farms producing tomatoes, berries, and tobacco).  The Center also participates in and provides leadership to several groups associated with the Washington Interreligious Staff Community:  the Health Care Working Group, Domestic Human Needs, the Religious Advocates Working Group on Reproductive Healthcare, and the Heads of Washington Offices.

Ecumenical Gatherings:  The Center is a regular participant in two annual ecumenical justice advocacy conferences:  the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, which is becoming the primary social justice network for African American religious leaders and faith-based advocates from communities of color in the US; and Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice, which brings to Washington, DC, about a thousand Christian advocates from around the US to worship together, share information through workshops, and advocate about specific justice issues and concerns to their elected representatives on Capitol Hill.  At the latter gathering, the Center usually invites other interested Disciples ministries to join with it in planning a special event for Disciples.  The Washington office of the United Church of Christ’s Justice and Witness Ministries is usually a partner in this planning, and members of the United Church of Christ are invited and encouraged to join with Disciples in this event.

Choosing Issues:  In terms of its work on particular issues, the Center works on (1) justice issues and concerns that are grounded in the sense-of-the-assembly resolutions through which the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada speaks to (not for) all Disciples, instructs staff, and allows the world to know which issues concern the Assembly; (2) justice issue areas prioritized by the Justice Table and/or the Center’s Board of Governors; and (3) justice issues and concerns authorized by commitments made to ecumenical and interfaith partners by one or all of the general ministries authorized by the General Assembly officially to carry out and oversee the justice advocacy and social witness of the church:  the Office of the General Minister and President, Disciples Home Missions, and the Division of Overseas Ministries.

Location:  Located primarily at National City Christian Church in Washington, DC, the Center also has space available to it at the regional office of the Christian Church Capital Area in Chevy Chase, MD, Twelfth Street Christian Church in Washington, DC, Park Avenue Christian Church in New York, NY, and the Disciples Center in Indianapolis, IN; and recently, the Center was given office space on the West Coast of the US by the Oakland Peace Center in Oakland, CA.  The Center has a presence in Canada through the Disciples Centre for Public Witness in London, Ontario.

Funding:  The Center is funded by grants from foundations, project grants from other Disciples ministries, financial gifts from congregational partners, and contributions from individual donors.  Special funds to provide scholarships for young adults to attend justice advocacy gatherings and events are provided through the Center’s Brian P. Adams Justice Education Fund.  Financial oversight is provided by both the Center’s Board of Governors and the Christian Church Capital Area.  Donations to the Disciples Center for Public Witness are received at 8814 Kensington Parkway #208, Chevy Chase, MD, 20815, and online at www.centersupport.org.

 

EUROPEAN EVANGELISTIC SOCIETY
PO Box 24560
Indianapolis, Indiana
www.eesinc.org
317-299-0333
Tony Twist, President
2017 General Board Report

The European Evangelistic Society (EES), incorporated in 1946, has now been in existence for 71 years.  The Institute for the Study of Christian Origins was established in Tübingen, Germany in the early 1960s. Its purpose is to encourage and guide research in the earliest church and to focus the application of that research on the church today.

The mission of EES in its 71 years of history has not changed.  It remains:  To develop Christian leaders for significant service through higher learning. The vision of EES is that every nation has effective leaders of disciple-making movements making a global impact on their churches, cultures, and countries for Christ. This vision reflects the common mission priorities of the Disciples of Christ as a movement for wholeness that welcomes all to the Table and fulfills the last command of Jesus: “. . . as you are going, make disciples of all nations, immersing them into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching obedience to all that I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

The mission of EES is focused on this concern of leadership development necessary to realize the Four Priorities of the Church as outlined in the 2020 Vision of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  EES views its priorities in terms of developing Christian leaders and future Christian leaders that have unique access to the University, especially international students who are coming in increased numbers.  This is done through providing practical assistance, counsel, and hospitality when they arrive on campus in order to establish relationships.  Then through prayer, fellowship, and studies as they get more involved.

Through the Institute for the Study of Christian Origins at the University of Tübingen, Germany, EES is actively involved in research supervision and publication. In conjunction with the Protestant faculty, a doctoral colloquium is offered in which international doctoral students have the opportunity for research supervision at a major European University. This mission expresses itself in three primary areas of ministry:

  • To develop international leaders for significant service through advanced studies
  • To assist emerging leaders in research and publication of relevant national articles, books, and other materials
  • To help encourage the establishment and development of churches, colleges, and agencies focused on evangelism and disciple making.

The educational ministry at The Institute for the Study of Christian Origins, led by Director Dr. Beth Langstaff, continues to function alongside Eberhard Karls University in Tübingen, Germany. The Institute maintains its long and productive relationship with the prestigious and influential University. The influence of this ministry has been felt all over the world, as international students have come to the University for academic purposes and have been a part of the Institute.  It pursues basic New Testament research, offers colloquia through the academic year, and engages in continuing dialogue with professors and students from around the world.

Courses in Theological German and Theological English are taught at the University with some translation and logistical work.  The classes include readings from a variety of Christian authors, in addition to Scripture, all with a view toward deepening relationships with God and others.  The colloquia provide good opportunities for probing questions as well as opportunities to meet outside of class for deeper discussions.  Increasingly the colloquium is serving international students as well.  The position that the Institute has by being part of the University officially gives us a great advantage and status as we- develop these ongoing relationships.  In order to serve more effectively as Bible college professors, presidents, mission directors, and in other high capacity positions, many from these networks will need the type of advanced preparation that EES can provide.  The Institute for the Study of Christian Origins is being positioned to help develop dedicated leaders for significant service throughout Europe, Russia, Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and beyond.

EES Goals:

  • Develop relationships between EES and other universities to help provide access to resources and research opportunities for the growing number of graduate students needing advanced studies.
  • Provide more doctoral mentoring, supervision, and opportunities for graduates and others through the EES networks.
  • Provide opportunities for
    • Mentoring doctoral students
    • Teaching theological English and theological German to students at Tübingen University
    • Preparing students from Eastern Europe and Central Asia to conduct research, write, and publish quality materials in their own languages
  • Continue to conduct the Doctoral Colloquium in conjunction with Protestant Faculty at Tübingen University.

Three events sponsored by the European Evangelistic Society help to fulfill the mission of the EES to stimulate study of early Christianity among scholars so our movement to restore New Testament Christianity can be taken seriously at the highest level.

  • On the basis of the respect earned by EES, the Institute was able in 2016 to sponsor the first Tübingen Institute International Lectureship series which took place in Ukraine during March. Dr. Bruce Little, who is a Senior Professor of Philosophy at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, traveled 800 miles, had two TV interviews, one newspaper interview, addressed a group of Christian elementary school teachers, and gave lectures at six universities. The lectures were well received and Dr. Little was invited back to every university at which he lectured and he received invitations from other universities that heard he was conducting the lectureship tour.  Each lecture was introduced as sponsored by the Institute for the Study of Christian Origins at Tübingen.  Lecture topics included: Between Anarchy and Tyranny, The Plausibility of God and Scientific Naturalism, Life and Meaning, The Emergence of the Postmodern Mind, Personal Responsibility as the Guardian of Freedom, The Conflict of Worldviews, and The Foundation of Law and Social Justice

The 2016 lectureship tour was an excellent beginning for the lectureship series and opened doors for future opportunities.  The lectureship series will result in the advancement of the Gospel of Christ through collaborative efforts to expanded regions of the world.

  • With the help of Tübingen’s New Testament faculty and that of the University of Munich, two symposia with scholars from around the world have been held. A third symposium is planned for 2018. These international gatherings, focusing on our work of developing leaders, serve to encourage us all to take seriously the Great Commission of our Lord and to support with prayers and resources those who are engaged in the work around the world. Our hope is that God will use the symposia to stimulate and encourage His servants everywhere.
  • The Dean E. Walker Lecture, sponsored by EES, provides an opportunity for thoughtful leaders in the Kingdom of God to present their ideas about what the church ought to be, especially in regard to the idea that Christ prayed that the church might be one. The lectures are given in honor of the life and work of Dean E. Walker and through the years have taken place at the North American Christian Convention, the General Assembly of the Christian Church, and at the World Convention of Churches of Christ. The ideas presented have always been anchored to the idea that in the person of Christ and the record of God’s self-disclosure in Scripture, the church can discover the will of God for the people of God. At times these lectures have been historical reviews of where the Stone-Campbell churches have been and are headed. They regularly have sought to look at those kinds of questions in the context of the consistent witness of God in Scripture and the ever-changing nature of modern culture.

Although EES does not work specifically in any one congregation, it seeks to promote the cause of reconciliation throughout the world by developing leaders who will demonstrate our commitment to the idea of a faithful, growing church that exhibits true community, deep Christian spirituality, and a passion for justice. The work of EES in Germany at the University of Tübingen is truly a multi-cultural community. During 2015, about 1.1 million migrants (2/3 of these were refugees from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan) arrived in Germany, most crossing by sea from Turkey – a perilous journey. Almost half a million have applied for asylum. The influx and assimilation of so many refugees have not been easy.

At the same time, the arrival of these refugees is bringing EES staff into direct contact with people from many different backgrounds and from other faiths. A few recent contacts: a conversation with a Syrian Muslim who was observing Ramadan and fasting until sunset; talking in simple German about prayer and fasting in Islam and in Christianity; a conversation with a Syrian refugee who shared photos of his home reduced to rubble and the family members he had left behind; sorting out clothing and shoes for a family of ten; worshiping on Sunday morning with an Afghan family who have been attending the local church.

Here at the Institute in Tübingen, we are praying and considering how we might use our resources to help these refugees and to work together with Tübingen churches to minister to those affected by the violence, and for those who are seeking refuge here.

EES seeks to be an international witness for the Christian gospel in one of the most significant theological settings in the world.  In keeping with the original vision of the European Evangelistic Society, the goal is to see churches thriving and flourishing throughout the world by equipping capable leaders to serve.

EES is characterized by a deep and abiding interest in the oneness of the Body of Christ.  The original purpose of the organization was to affect a channel through which it might cooperate in accomplishing the divine mission transmitted to the Church through the New Testament, and that its fraternity in this cause should be recognized as a fellowship for advancing the Christian mission. That interest has not changed with the passing of 70 years of ministry. The European Evangelistic Society is one of the few ministries among Stone-Campbell churches that has historically sought to work among all three streams of the American expression of this ideal.  For over half a century, the dream of a united Church, bound by its commitment to the New Testament as the revelation of God about the person of Jesus Christ, has been an unchanging focus of our mission.

THE GENERAL COMMISSION ON MINISTRY
Paxton Jones, Chairperson

The General Commission on Ministry [GCOM] of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is composed of up to sixteen members appointed by the General Minister & President in consultation with various constituencies across the life of the church.  In odd-numbered years, the General Minister and President may present a slate of members to the General Board for confirmation.

In 2016, the following persons served on the General Commission on Ministry:  Cynthia Adcock, pastor, Northwest Christian Church, Columbus, OH; William Almodovar, Interim National Hispanic Pastor; Greg Alexander, Regional Minister, Christian Church in Kentucky; Howard Bowers, Office of General Minister & President, administrative staff; Jinsuk Chun, Executive Pastor of the North American Pacific/Asian Disciples; Ron Degges, DHM President; Ann Dotson,  Pastor, First Christian Church, Rowlett, TX; Pam Holt, Regional Minister, Christian Church in Oklahoma; Eugene James, Regional Minister, Christian Church in Michigan; Timothy James, Associate General Minister & Administrative Secretary of the National Convocation; Paxton Jones, Regional Minister, Christian Church in Kansas;[1] Belva Brown Jordan, Assistant Dean, Claremont School of Theology; Sandy Messick, Regional Minister, Northwest Regional Christian Church; Saundra Michael-Bowers, Pension Fund Representative; Holly Miller-Shank, UCC Representative; Rossy Ricart, laywoman, Iglesia Hermandad Cristiana, Indianapolis; Glen Stewart, retired Regional Minister, Nashville, TN; Newell Williams, Seminary Representative [President, Brite Divinity School, Fort Worth, TX]; Tom Yang, pastor, Glenview (IL) Christian Church; and Sharon Watkins, General Minister & President, ex-officio.  In addition, Warren Lynn, Director, Office of Christian Vocation, met by invitation with the Search & Call Committee to share information directly related to his work.

During our August 2016 meeting, Rachel Hackenberg represented the UCCs in place of Holly Miller-Shank, who was on sabbatical; Chung Kim, Interim Executive Pastor, represented NAPAD; and Lori Tapia, newly named National Hispanic Pastor, represented the Central Pastoral Office of Hispanic Ministries.  New to GCOM this year will be Gene Fisher, representing the Pension Fund, as Saundra Michael-Bowers has retired.

GCOM meets twice per year.  In 2016, we met in Indianapolis on February 22-23 and on August 15-16 we met via a series of video conferences. By the time this General Board gathers, GCOM’s first meeting of 2017, January 23-25 in Indianapolis, will have concluded.  Although for the past two years our second meeting has been conducted electronically, this year we will meet on August 21-23 in Indianapolis to welcome the new General Minister & President into our midst and orient her/him into our work.

Since GCOM last reported to the General Board, it has addressed the following issues:

  • REPORT OF THE TASK FORCE ON ELIMINATING RACIST LANGUAGE FROM GOVERNING DOCUMENTS (GB-16-0977): Created by General Assembly action in 2013[2], the task force made two observations regarding our Policies and Criteria:
  • For most clergy, ordained or commissioned, there are parallel regional documents that are more specifically pertinent to what happens to those persons. We recommend Regions engage in an audit of their own documents on policies and criteria, looking for ways in which their policies might need to be made more inclusive.
  • In order to be a fully inclusive church, we recommended provision of translation services for those clergy for whom the English language may be challenging. This seems especially important in experiences dealing with Committees on Ministry and questions of ordination or maintenance of standing, both at the regional and general expressions.

GCOM affirmed these recommendations and will work with OGMP and Reconciliation Ministry to provide CRM with resources and criteria by which to audit their regional documents and with CRM, NAPAD and the Central Pastoral Office of Hispanic Ministries to help provide translation services for those clergy and committees who need them.[3]

  • CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECKS: Our UCC counterpart negotiated a renewed contract for Criminal Background Checks with Oxford Document Management on behalf of both denominations.  The new contract reflects a minimal increase in cost.
  • AMENDMENTS TO TFPCOM: After the Theological Foundations and Policy and Criteria for the Ordering of the Ministry was approved by the 2009 General Assembly, some regions believed that in adopting it as their regional policy it was permissible to amend TFPCOM so long as those amendments did not contradict the original document. This is incorrect. GCOM affirmed that TFPCOM can only be amended by the General Board or General Assembly. Regions may, however, establish additional policies as long as they do not conflict with TFPCOM.
  • COLLABORATION WITH CRM: A policy was approved allowing Regional Ministries to use their discretion in submitting Regional Directives for potential candidates from other regions who have never had Standing.
  • STANDING FOR CLERGY WHOSE STANDING IS LODGED WITH THE GENERAL COMMISSION ON MINISTRY: Standing was granted in 2016 to 170 clergy serving in general, senior regional, chaplaincy and missionary situations; this number includes 4 UCC General Staff members.  
  • VETTING OF FILES PERTAINING TO DECEASED CLERGY: The question of whether the permanent files in OCV and Regions of clergy who die should be vetted before being sent to the Disciples of Christ Historical Society was sent to the Disciples general counsel, especially as it pertains to uncensored names and possible liability.  Upon advice of Counsel, a policy was approved and will be sent to CRM with the recommendation that each Region adopt and implement it.
  • Completed updates/reviews on:
  1. GCOM Standing Request Form and letter for 2017
  2. Appeal Process and Misconduct Policies (reviewed annually) —and reattached the Guidelines for Inter-Regional Cooperation on Matters of Fitness for Ministry to the latter.

Future projects:

  1. Review the Letter of Call in the light of UCC’s Covenant and Call documents and the end of Churchwide Health Care
  2. Reiterate where Standing should be lodged for clergy serving both a congregation and a general ministry part-time
  3. Explore ways in which the Core Competency list developed by the Ministry Development Council may be used

As always, we welcome your input, comments, questions, ideas, and concerns.

Respectfully submitted, Paxton Jones, Chairperson

 

NATIONAL CHRISTIAN MISSIONARY CONVENTION, INC.
Patricia Penelton, President
Timothy M. James, Corporate Secretary
And its Subsidiary
GREENWOOD CEMETERY OF NASHVILLE, TENN., INC.
William L. Lee, President
Dwayne Bell, General Manager

The National Convocation Board of Trustees is elected by the General Assembly as the Trustees of the National Christian Missionary Convention, Inc.  The trustees are basically tasked with the oversight of the assets willed to the National Christian Missionary Convention by Preston Taylor, funds contributed to the Black Disciples Endowment Fund and to offer continued guidance to the Greenwood Cemetery of Nashville, Inc.

NATIONAL CHRISTIAN MISSIONARY CONVENTION:

National Christian Missionary funds are held in investments with the Church Extension Fund and Christian Church Foundation. Expenses related to NCMC operations are paid by the National Convocation which makes NCMC primarily an investment-holding corporation.

The Black Disciples Endowment Fund is owned by the National Christian Missionary Convention. BDEF is purposed to strengthen the ministry of Black Disciples.  The BDEF assists in sponsoring the School of Faith and life during the Biennial Session, scholarship funds for Black Disciples and programs for the recruitment and development of leaders.

A portion of the Lillian Merchant Fund held by Christian church Foundation is allocated to the Black Disciples Endowment Fund for the purpose of ministerial recruitment and nurture. The Office of African American Clergy Leadership and Development functions to recruit and nurture prospective ministers and to continue the legacy of training clergy through the Preston Taylor Institute. William L. Lee is director of this office.

Trustees of the National Christian Missionary Convention are: Patricia Penelton, President; Donald K. Gillett, Vice President; Edward Cushingberry, Secretary; Gloria Gilliard, Treasurer; Preston T. Adams, Valildra Berry, Irvin Green, Shannon Dycus, Milton Bowens, Delesslyn Kennebrew and Ken Brooker Langston. Ex-officio trustees are: Sharon E. Watkins, Ronald Degges and Timothy James.

GREENWOOD CEMETERY:

The Greenwood Cemetery of Nashville, Inc. is a nonprofit corporation organized to manage the Greenwood Cemeteries, which are owned by the National Christian Missionary Convention. Under the able leadership of General Manager, Dwayne Bell the cemetery has grown and become more attractive to the citizens of Nashville. The cemetery operates on three sites and efforts are being made to make these settings beautiful and serene, for families to regard these grounds as a comfortable final resting place for loved ones.

Members of the Greenwood Cemetery Board of Directors are: William L. Lee, Chairman; Freddie Lawton, Vice Chairman; Juanita Greene, Treasurer; John Foulkes, Investment Comm. Chair; Dale Braxton, Patricia Penelton, John Tiggle, Beverly Dickason, Jesse Jackson, Ahmed White, Norman Reed and Marvin Owens. Ex-officio officers: Timothy James, Corporate Secretary; Dwayne Bell, General Manager.

 

NATIONAL CITY CHRISTIAN CHURCH FOUNDATION
Richard L. Hamm, Chairperson
Stephen W. Gentle, Senior Minister
5 Thomas Circle, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20005
Telephone: (202) 232-0323; Fax: (202) 797-0111
Web site: www.nationalcitycc.org

National City Christian Church was created to live out Alexander Campbell’s vision to uphold a momentous church facility in the city known for its national and world leaders so that the Gospel of Jesus Christ might be proclaimed. National City Christian Church Foundation is honored to be one of the recognized organizations of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada. The Foundation holds in trust the ownership of the church property and its facilities on behalf of the wider church. It is led by a national Board of Trustees and reports to the General Assembly. The Foundation is yoked in partnership with the congregation of National City Christian Church to provide a national facility for worship, study, ministry, and mission in the U.S. capital.

National City Christian Church Foundation exists for the purpose of maintaining the financial and physical assets of the Foundation so that the congregations and/or wider ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) may pursue mission at 5 Thomas Circle. In order to accomplish this, the Foundation shall: preserve and grow the endowment; manage its facilities and property to maximize its use by tenants whose purposes are consistent with the values of the Foundation and its donors; and maintain the facilities in a manner that protects the Foundation’s assets and honors perpetual care agreements.

Richard L. Hamm leads the Foundation as the chairperson of the Board of Trustees. For Dr. Hamm’s institutional knowledge and bold leadership, the Foundation is very grateful. National City Christian Church is appreciative and truly humbled by the remarkable leadership and generous support of the Foundation trustees, congregational leadership, and Disciples from around the world.

The National City Christian Church Foundation, in partnership with the congregation, launched a two-year capital campaign called “Renew and Transform” with the purpose of addressing deferred maintenance and repairs to the facilities. The goal of $800,000 was overwhelming supported and presently $1,025,134 has been raised. The following projects were completed: boiler replacement, Beasley Building roof replacement, air conditioning repair, security entry system installation, carpet for the Sanctuary and the Beasley Building, courtyard pavers replacement, courtyard fountain repair, portico railings replacement, flat roof of the Sanctuary repair, exterior Sanctuary doors restoration, and the front steps received some much-needed repair to its damaged limestone. The Foundation is grateful to the capital campaign leadership team led by chairperson Kathleen Burger Gerada and consultant James Powell. In conjunction with the capital campaign, the Foundation relaunched the Ambassador program led by Thomas and Kay Jewell of Oklahoma. The 12 Ambassadors have been commissioned to share with other Disciples information about this unique national witness in the U.S. capital.

Presently the Board of Trustees is in the midst of a discernment process concerning the 63-year-old education building that was formerly occupied by a public charter school. The Board is presently working with a developer and hopes to complete the sale in 2017.

The Foundation is grateful to Senior Minister Stephen W. Gentle, the staff, and congregational leadership that is engaged in ministry and mission in the Washington, D.C. area. The congregation has completed its five-year strategic plan. In the last five years, 110 new members have joined the congregation. Over 550 new individuals have come to one of the worship services for the very first time, with a majority of those guests returning for worship. A Disciples 101 class was launched for new members, along with the classes called Spiritual Practices 101 and Disciples Church History 101. Significant connections were made each week with young professionals, persons within the LGBT communities, and multicultural families – the congregation’s three top demographics for outreach. The new congregational bylaws are in place as it right-sized the congregational governance board and established the ministry partnership for coordinated congregational program planning. Many lay persons have invested themselves in the volunteerism of the congregation, donating significant portions of their time to staffing the front desk, the food pantry, yard work and gardening, cleaning the sanctuary, counting money and maintaining financial records, development work, and hospitality at music events, to name just a few areas.

In addition, the facilities of National City Christian Church continued to be a gathering place in the U.S. capital for Disciples of Christ and ecumenical partners. Some gatherings and events in the past two years have included:

  • Higher Education and Leadership Ministries (HELM) Fellows annual training; Disciples Home Missions Board of Directors meeting; United Nations Youth Conference of the Ohio region, Moral Revival Poor People’s Campaign teach-in led by William J. Barber II and James A Forbes; Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice, National Interfaith Prayer Service for Marriage Equality, National AIDS Conference, National Masonic Day of Thanksgiving and Remembrance, and D.C. Interfaith Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Service with Sister Simone Campbell speaking.
  • Partnering with the Christian Church Capital Area, National City hosted a region-wide leadership training event called “Salt and Light” and the 2017 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. worship service with CTS Professor Frank Thomas preaching.
  • Hundreds of young people “bunked” down at National City to experience a life-changing trip to Washington, D.C., including 475 youth from the summer program called Team Effort, the Christian Church in Kansas, the University of Massachusetts spring break, First Christian Church of Salem, Pfeiffer University fall break, Trinity United Methodist Church, and Howard University.
  • Offices and meeting spaces are provided by the Foundation for Disciples Center for Public Witness, Disciples Home Missions’ Refugee and Immigration Ministries, and the Ecumenical Poverty Initiative. The Oscar Haynes exhibit of the Disciples of Christ Historical Society will be dedicated in November, 2017, as a display that is shared between National City and the Disciples of Christ Historical Society, Bethany, West Virginia.
  • National City hosted several musical events, including weekly Friday organ concerts for the community and quarterly two-day Heritage Festival choral adjudication events for high school groups from across the U.S. Music groups from around the District also performed in the sanctuary: the 120-voice Congressional Chorus, Washington Sinfonietta, Fessenden Chamber Ensemble, Heritage Signature Chorale, Thomas Circle Singers, and the newly formed National Children’s Chorus, which is also housed at National City.
  • National City opened its doors to share with many of its neighbors: 10,000 bags of food were distributed to those who were hungry; hundreds of persons were welcomed with hospitality and face-painting at the church booth at Capital Pride; and many neighborhood pet owners and their canine companions joined in the annual blessing of the animals on the portico steps. Several of National City’s unique ministries continued to thrive and grow, including the Hispanic congregation, the young adult ministry (YADA), the LGBTQ Fellowship, and the community children’s playgroup.
  • Minister of Music J. Michael McMahon prepared worship materials for the Sunday before the 2017 U.S. Presidential Inauguration and were made available to Disciples congregations and ecumenical partners for their worship experiences in January.
  • Church Historian Peter M. Morgan and Videographer John Scott Williams created a four-part educational DVD on the history of National City Christian Church in the context of the Stone-Campbell movement. Copies of the DVD may be obtained by contacting Office Manager Colleen Walsh at cwalsh@nationalcitycc.org.

As a multiracial/multicultural, bilingual, open and affirming congregation, National City Christian Church enjoys welcoming and worshiping with Disciples from all around the world every Sunday. National City is your church in the U.S. capital. Tours of these facilities are available during the week upon request. All are invited to learn more about this unique Disciples witness by browsing to www.nationalcitycc.org or visiting in person your Disciples facility in the U.S. capital.

 

Reconciliation Ministry

2017 General Board Report April G. Johnson
Minister of Reconciliation

Mission StatementReconciliation Ministry advances the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)’s journey toward wholeness by empowering each expression of the Church to implement structural change to address historic fractures caused by racism and the systems that perpetuate it.

Context:

The United States continues to grapple with the tragic killings of unarmed men of color by police officers since our last reporting period in 2015.  As well, the end of this year was marked by divisive rhetoric during the 2016 election cycle effecting an uptick in hate crimes and religious intolerance.  The months of July and September of 2016 were particularly egregious due to the frequency in which events were occurring. Protesters took to the streets, again which helped raise awareness of the need for intentional and transparent efforts toward racial justice for families and the communities we serve.  Disciples offered responses through statements from the College of Regional Ministers and Moderators to the Church.  Reconciliation Ministry responded faithfully through the following highlights:

Ministry Highlights

  • New guidelines for grants to Reconciliation Ministry were approved and distributed via the Reconciliation Ministry web page. The changes to the guidelines include incentives for Regions with multiple congregations working together to address structural racism through community organizing are now eligible to submit proposals to General Reconciliation Ministry.
  • The Minister of Reconciliation served as consultant to two Regional Boards in their efforts to draft resolutions that called for Anti-Racism training as a requirement for clergy standing as well as promote regional leadership participation in the regularized anti-racism training events. Both, Georgia and Indiana Regions approved their resolutions.
  • In collaboration with ministry partners of Week of Compassion, National Benevolent Association and Disciple Justice Action Network, Reconciliation Ministry accompanied the Regions of North Carolina and Oklahoma in their responses to the recent shooting deaths and associated demonstrations to listen as well as to provide pastoral and mental health presence in Charlotte, North Carolina and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
  • Final recommendations from the Task Force on Eliminating Racist Language from Governing Documents were received in April of this year. The findings of the Task Force rendered the conclusion that the language used in our documents was not overtly racist or exclusionary.  When viewed as behavioral documents, however, evidence of perpetuating racism became evident. From the recommendation document: “Most importantly, it is important to remember that our choices as a church are not between being racist and being non-racist. On their face, our foundational documents do not by and large include explicit and obvious racism. Our choices are between being racist and being anti-racist. Insofar as our documents are not explicit in their commitment to anti-racism, they uphold racism (race prejudice + misuse of power by systems and institutions). Insofar as our documents center whiteness or treat whiteness as normative and treat communities of color as additional to the rest of the church, they uphold racism. Insofar as our documents are not explicit in their accountability to anti-racist communities of color, they uphold racism. As a church committed to serving all of God’s children, this is the project our task force set out to address.”
  • Training in the introduction and the analysis of racism continues to increase in capacity and demand. As the Church navigates significant transition in Executive leadership in the College as well as the General Cabinet, new trainers have been recruited and cultivated in the regions of Pacific Southwest as well as Oregon and Southwest Idaho.  To meet the continual needs for contextualization as well as increased Regional needs for leader development, our Core Trainers have shifted their roles to coaching and training new facilitators of the one-day introductory module of anti-racism training.

January 2017

THE UNITED CHRISTIAN MISSIONARY SOCIETY
Julia Brown Karimu, President
1099 North Meridian Street,Suite 700
Indianapolis, IN 46204-1036
P.O. Box 1986
Indianapolis, IN 46206-1986
Email: shansen@ccf.disciples.org

The United Christian Missionary Society continued to furnish financial support for the Division of Homeland Ministries, dba Disciples Home Missions (DHM), and the Division of Overseas Ministries (DOM), by investing and managing its endowment and permanent funds for the benefit of the two Divisions.

During 2016, there was no gift annuity released. There was no life income agreement income to report. When gift annuities or life income agreements are released, the funds are either distributed outright to DHM and DOM or added to the permanent endowments of the Society depending on the beneficiary designation. The Society did not receive any restricted bequests.

The Society continued to be involved with ethical issues which related to its investments and was active with the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility (ICCR). ICCR is an ecumenical organization of 17 Protestant denominations and approximately 200 Roman Catholic orders which cooperate concerning ethical and social concerns as expressed by actions of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

The Society, which has eight trustees and four officers, has no active employees. Beginning in 1993, the Society contracted with the Christian Church Foundation, Inc. to perform the treasury services for the Society. The current officers of the Society are as follows: Julia Brown Karimu, President; Ronald J. Degges, Vice President; Kathy Watts, Corporate Secretary, and Lonna Owens, Treasurer. Four trustees are nominated by each of the two Divisions served by the Society. They are elected by the General Board of the church and serve a term of four years. Their responsibilities are to oversee and determine policies concerning the investments of assets owned by the Society. The protection as well as the income realized from these assets is of paramount concern for the trustees. Their invaluable service is recognized and this report is submitted on their behalf.

The Society distributed the following from the investment pool in 2015:

DHM – $674,139; DOM – $953,277; other entities – $53,872.

The Society distributed the following from the investment pool in 2016:

DHM – $725,604; DOM – $1,024,104; other entities – $57,924.

 

WEEK OF COMPASSION COMMITTEE
Judith Frost, Co-Chair
Cindy Kim-Hengst, Co-Chair
Vy Nguyen, Executive Director
P.O. Box 1986, Indianapolis, IN 46206
317-713-2442
www.weekofcompassion.org

Week of Compassion—the relief, refugee, and development mission fund of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)—continues to serve and respond faithfully to human need and suffering in North America and around the world.  By offering hope, compassion, and healing to individuals and communities in need on behalf of the entire church, Week of Compassion’s ministry is one of the expressions of wholeness in a fragmented world.

Through Week of Compassion, the church is present with families and communities when they are affected by natural or human made disasters.  Many of these disasters range in scale, from small floods to an entire country devastated by a major hurricane, such as we saw in Haiti last year.  No matter what the disaster is and no matter which communities are affected, Week of Compassion is well positioned to respond quickly and compassionately through our church and ecumenical partners to meet the immediate and long-term needs of the people and their communities.

In recent years, we have witnessed unprecedented levels of global displacement generating more frequent and drastic crises, especially as the civil war in Syria continues to worsen.  In this past year alone, the world witnessed the tremendous rise in the global migration and refugee crisis, where the number of displaced people worldwide in 2016 reached the highest level in human history, surpassing the number of displaced people after World War II. The international community’s response is becoming increasingly inadequate, as there does not seem to be a foreseeable end in sight to these conflicts and wars.  The crises we face today represent a challenge to both the human rights of displaced people, migrants and refugees, and to international norms and standards.  As such, Week of Compassion focused our tremendous resources on three geographical areas of refugee conflict in 2016: The Middle East, especially inside Syria and the surrounding refugee camps in Jordan, Iraq, and Syria; Tanzania, where Burundian refugees are fleeing conflict and facing increasingly dire living conditions due to inadequate facilities to host the refugee families; and Eastern Europe, through which refugees from the Middle East are migrating.  Together with Global Ministries and Disciples Home Mission’s Refugee and Immigration Ministries, and our partners at Church World Service and ACT Alliance, we have prioritized our efforts to reduce vulnerability at all stages of movement, including emigration from a conflict area, entry into asylum countries and resettlement in safe countries.

While migration is not a new occurrence in the world, at this particular moment in time more people than ever before are leaving their homes under severe circumstances, compelled by the destruction and severity of drought, floods, famine, and extreme violence.  All hoping to find refuge elsewhere.   As Christians, our calling has always been to welcome strangers and to offer a place of refuge and a safe haven. Week of Compassion accompanies many of our displaced sisters and brothers through our partners for the long journey.

In North America, many floods and storms affected communities across the United States and Canada.   In May of 2016, a wildfire began southwest of Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, and destroyed close to 2,500 homes and buildings, forcing the largest wildfire evacuation in Alberta’s history.  Week of Compassion partnered with the United Church of Canada to meet the long-term recovery needs for individuals and families impacted by the wildfire.

Week of Compassion was also present in Louisiana, West Virginia, the Carolinas, and many other communities when major floods took place this past year.  We continue to work with local congregations to provide solidarity grants to families impacted by the floods and remain partnered with Disciples Volunteering at Disciples Home Missions for long term recovery efforts.  By working with Church of the Brethren, we are also able to provide spiritual and emotional support to children through the Children Disaster’s Services.  In addition, we continue to work closely with the United Church of Christ and the Church of the Brethren to support the Disciples Response Support Initiative (DRSI) to assist local communities in holistic recovery after a disaster. The DRSI models support, mentor, and encourage the development of local Long Term Recovery Groups through the sustained on-site presence of a Disaster Recovery Support Team (DRST), consisting of a Case Management Specialist, a Volunteer Construction Specialist, and a LTRG Group Formation Specialist.

Week of Compassion is committed to walking with communities through sustainable development programs to help communities become resilient and sustainable.  Our partner at Prosperity Catalyst has been implementing income-generating business for women in Haiti, and particularly in Iraq where the cultural tradition does not allow women to work.  These businesses, such as bread baking and high-end candle making, are a way to help women support their families and community, giving them more protection and a powerful voice within their daily living to make impactful change.

As of the end of November 2016, Week of Compassion’s undesignated giving totaled $1,725,061—a slight increase of 0.3% from the prior year.  Designated giving remained strong at $540,237—an increase of 23.8% from prior year.   Income from Week of Compassion’s endowment program and other funds in the Christian Church Foundation equaled $116,847 at the end of November 2016, an increase from $87,692 from November 2015.

Week of Compassion is able to respond locally and globally on behalf of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada because of the generous support that comes from our congregations and individuals.  Such generosity puts our compassion into action throughout the year around the globe. As we work together through this life-saving ministry, we serve as a vital, visible sign of our witness to Christ in the world, so that we can bring healing, reconciliation, and wholeness in a fragmented world.

WORLD CONVENTION
(CHRISTIAN – CHURCHES OF CHRIST – DISCIPLES OF CHRIST)
Gary Holloway Executive Director/General Secretary
PO Box 50998, Nashville, TN  37205-0998 USA
Phone/Fax: +1 (615) 298-1824 Email:  office@worldconvention.org
Home Page:  http://www.worldconvention.org
2016 REPORT

In 2016, God blessed the two-fold mission of World Convention—to encourage fellowship, understanding, and common purpose within the Christian-Churches of Christ-Disciples of Christ global family of churches and to relate them to the whole Church for the sake of unity in Christ Jesus.

This two-fold global mission supports the mission of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) “to be and to share the Good News of Jesus Christ, witnessing, loving and serving from our doorsteps “to the ends of the earth.”

World Convention related our churches to other Christians in many ways in 2016. The most notable was participation in Joint Catholic-Lutheran Commemoration of the Reformation, held in Lund, Sweden on October 31. This joint worship service begins a year of remembrance leading to the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation on October 31, 2017. In this anniversary year, Catholics and Lutherans hope this common commemoration under the theme of “From Conflict to Communion” will “affirm the common conviction that there is more that unites than that which divides us.”

World Convention represented the Stone-Campbell Movement at this historic service since its theme of Christian unity is at the heart of the mission statement of World Convention:

In Christ, all are reconciled to God and to each other, and in the Spirit, God calls us to proclaim this good news throughout the world. World Convention (Christian-Churches of Christ-Disciples of Christ) embodies and encourages fellowship, understanding, and common purpose within this global family of churches and relates them to the whole Church for the sake of unity in Christ Jesus.

In relating World Convention to the whole Church at the Lund meeting, we also were living out our heritage as Stone-Campbell Christians, since both Campbell and Stone saw their work as continuing and enhancing the Reformation with its emphasis on Scripture. They also often spoke of their work as “catholic,” that is, reflecting what the whole church has always believed.

For more on the meeting in Lund, see https://www.lutheranworld.org/news/press-release-rediscovering-who-we-are-christ or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=plkK6zNHP_0

However, most of the work of World Convention in 2016 was in encouraging fellowship, understanding, and common purpose within the Christian-Churches of Christ-Disciples of Christ global family of churches, connecting these churches everywhere every day.

Every few years World Convention holds a Global Gathering. Gatherings bring together people from the ‘Stone-Campbell’ family of Churches (Christian – Churches of Christ – Disciples) from around the world. The Gatherings focus on meaningful worship (including outstanding preaching and inspirational music), learning (with study of significant themes), contemporary evangelism (Bader Lectures) and global fellowship. Our New Delhi Gathering, January 12-15, 2017, will be our first in Asia. In 2016, much of the work of World Convention was in preparing for the Gathering in India.

________________________

The General Board has reviewed GA-1701 from the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Including the Office of General Minister and President. The report is submitted to the General Assembly for presentation and discussion. No action is required. (Discussion time: 12 minutes)

 

[1] Although I retired as Regional Minister at the end of 2016, Sharon Watkins asked me to continue as Chairperson until my term ends on 12/31/17 to help with the transition of the new GMP.

[2] GA1328.

[3] GCOM applied for a grant from the Oreon E. Scott Foundation in order to begin this process for Search & Call documents, but the application was regretfully denied.  Other funding options will be sought.

Stewardship a focus for study

CFG color low resWith the passing of GA 1536, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has called for the creation of a comprehensive statement (a Study Document1) on stewardship.  This paper, which will be crafted by the Center for Faith and Giving, will return to the 2017 Assembly for a vote on whether or not to receive it into the official record of the church.  The Rev. Bruce A. Barkhauer, the Center’s Director for the past five years, greeted the formidable charge with enthusiasm.  “This will be the first comprehensive biblical and theological, document on stewardship ever commissioned by the Christian Church.  It will outline stewardship as more than money and bring discussions about earth care, self-care, Sabbath, evangelism, and resource management to the forefront of our life together as a faithful community.”

Initial plans call for a diverse gathering of scholars and practitioners to map out the foundations for the major themes and for an additional group to then develop a curriculum from the materials for use in congregational life.  Rev. Barkhauer indicated that there is an urgency within every aspect of this topic.  “The earth is dying in our hands, we have forgotten the rhythm of rest and work, we have lost our passion for sharing the gospel, and our resources manage us – rather than the other way around.  There are issues of economic and social justice and general well-being at stake.  We need a 21st Century view of this topic.”

1 More information about Study Documents can be found in the Special Rules of Procedure for the General Assembly.  Learn more the process at the Center for Faith and Giving website (http://www.centerforfaithandgiving.org)