GA-1913

GA-1913

THE NATIONAL CONVOCATION OF THE
CHRISTIAN CHURCH (DISCIPLES OF CHRIST)
IN THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA
1099 N. Meridian St., Suite 700
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204
Donald K. Gillett, President
Timothy M. James, Administrative Secretary

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I offer this report with joy and gladness as I look back over the year of activity associated with the National Convocation. God is truly to be praised for a blessed and Spirit-filled 25th Biennial Session of the National Convocation in Birmingham, AL. Much appreciation is extended to Edward Williams and the Local Arrangements Committee, John Mobley and the Alabama/Northwest Florida Region who worked so wonderfully with our Board of Trustees and Merger Staff.  The presence and participation of our College of Regional Ministers, the presence of First Moderator, Beau Underwood and Moderator-Elect, Belva Brown Jordan, made a powerful statement to our faith community.  We are the Disciples of Christ and our Biennial Session is open to everyone.  We endeavor, “To be a faithful growing church, that demonstrates true community, deep Christian spirituality and a passion for justice.” (Mission Imperative of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)).

We are grateful to report the registrations for this Biennial Session was at 526 and 85% – 90% of our registrations were on line. We may attribute our on-line access and presence to the work and diligence of our Ministry Associate, Brenda Rossy.  SELAH is now published on our web page which is set up through Constant Contact, and our meetings and transportation are arranged through Concur. So, we are showing more progress technologically.

Our endeavors have produced a broader understanding of the 1969 Merger Agreement between the National Christian Missionary Convention and the International Convention of the Christian Churches.  This has been accomplished with the reprint and distribution of THE JOURNEY TOWARD WHOLENESS, sponsoring a historical summit for our Board of Trustees at the Centennial Christian Church is St. Louis, MO, workshops offered at the Black Ministers Retreat, The 25th Biennial Session and the Eastern District Assembly of the Christian Church in Michigan. In the 2017 General Assembly we recognized the 100th Anniversary of the National Christian Missionary convention.  The 2019 General Assembly will have special recognition for the 50th Anniversary of the Design along with the 50th Anniversary of the Merger Agreement.

Concerning Leadership Development, the National Convocation continues to cooperate with the Black Disciples Endowment Fund, The Black Ministers Retreat, and the Biennial Session to offer education and learning opportunities to our constituents.  It is hoped that at these points of engagement we could offer the Preston Taylor Institute regularly along with Pro-Reconciling/Anti-Racism Workshops, Boundary Training, and continuing education in the areas to meet competency requirements for commissioned ministers and ministers on the Alternative Track for ordination.  Our relationship with the General Youth Council has improved.  We were able to find a young woman to serve with GYC.  She is Brittani Bullock, a member of Light of the World Christian Church in Indianapolis.  We are pursuing our next goal, to get a youth member for the Board of Trustees.  The Young Adult Council also needs a member from the National Convocation.  We will seek a member for the YAC’s next selection period.  We look forward to working with our General Minister and President, Terri Hord Owens.  She is most appreciative of data and information technology.  Therefore, we need our pastors to send in the Year Book reports of the congregation in to the Regional Office.  That would be a good start.  Then show up and participate in district and regional meetings of Disciples of Christ taking place near you.

The 2019 General Assembly, July 20-24 in Des Moines, Iowa, has opportunities for the National Convocation to be directly involved.  The Assembly theme is “ABIDE IN ME” based on John 15: 1-5.  Our evening meal function will be Sunday, July 21, 2019.  Please, mark your calendars and set your dates for the Combined Convocation of North American Pacific Asian Disciples (NAPAD), the Biennial Hispanic Fellowship Assembly (Obra Hispana) and the National Convocation taking place July 22-25, 2020.  The location is under research and as soon as we have determined a site you will be the first to know.  Please, pray with us as we seek the Lord’s guidance to build a worshipful event on our foundation theme text, Revelation 7: 9-10.  There is a blessing here for us all.  Finally, we acknowledge the forward thinking of the Ministers Wives and Husbands Fellowship Executive Committee, for establishing an endowment fund with Christian Church Foundation in their name and for future resources.

Members of the Board of Trustees:  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, Beverly Goines, Antonio Redd, Walter Parker, Pernella Shortie, Sue Gray, Edward Williams; Merger Staff – R. Wayne Calhoun, Sheila Spencer, Chesla Nickelson; Ex-Officio members – Terri Hord Owens, GMP, Sotello Long, President of DHM, and Timothy James.

GA-1910

GA-1910

 DIVISION OF OVERSEAS MINISTRIES/GLOBAL MINISTRIES

Julia Brown Karimu
President of DOM and Co-Executive of Global Ministries
1099 North Meridian Street, P. O. Box 1986, Indianapolis, Indiana 46206-1986
Telephone (317) 713-2577
Fax (317) 635-4323
E-mail: jkarimu@dom.disciples.org

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The Division of Overseas Ministries has participated in a joint witness in mission with Wider Church Ministries of the United Church of Christ for twenty-two years. This ministry is under the auspices of Global Ministries, which has 291 partners located in 91 countries.  The mission of Global Ministries is “to share and receive the good news of Christ by joining with global and local partners to work for justice, reconciliation and peace”.  In addition, Global Ministries continues to appoint mission co-workers in response to specific requests from overseas partner churches and organizations.  These appointments are made through the lens of Critical Presence, “that is meeting God’s people and creation at the point of deepest needs; spiritually, physically, emotionally, and economically”.  One hundred and five individuals served as mission co-workers in 2018.  The number included twenty-seven fully supported mission co-workers, thirty global service workers (long-term volunteers), ten global mission interns, and thirty-eight global associates.  The Global Service Worker is the fastest growing category of mission co-worker appointments. Twenty-five individuals also served as short-term volunteers.

This past year found partners in the Middle East and Latin America responding to the needs of the mass movement of people.  Partners in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as in East Asia and the Pacific responded to the impact of climate change, which has resulted in droughts and floods.  Partners in Southern Asia are working to prevent human trafficking. Peace efforts continue in Colombia, the Korean Peninsula and the Middle East.  Interfaith relations have become more critical as we are called to address interfaith tensions within the United States and around the world.  Many of the critical issues in mission are cross-regional, and area executives are exploring new ways of collaboration to address them. The area reports will give a glimpse into the daily challenges of our brothers and sisters and the ways in which the church is engaged in working to address them.

The Caribbean Initiative was completed December 31, 2018. It included the following countries: Colombia, Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela.  The purposes of the initiative were to enable members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ to understand the religious, social and political realities of partners in the region and to provide mutual exchanges.  (A more detailed report is found in the Latin America and Caribbean Report.)

The next initiative will be related to Southern Asia and will be launched at the 2019 General Assembly.  It will include the following countries: Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, East Timor, and Indonesia.

The Division of Overseas Ministries sponsored a People-to-People Pilgrimage for new regional ministers to Ghana and South Africa.  This is a discrete program of the Division of Overseas Ministries.  It is designed for regional ministers to have the opportunity to visit overseas partner churches and organizations in order to better understand Global Ministries.  The following regional ministers participated in this pilgrimage: Nadine Burton, Regional Minister of the Great River Region; LaTaunya Bynum, Regional Minister of Northern California and Nevada; Penny Ross-Corona, Regional Minister Team Leader for the Christian Church of Mid-America; William Rose-Heim, Regional Minister of Greater Kansas City; Jen Garbin, Regional Minister for Canada; and Dale Braxton, Associate Regional Minister of Alabama and Northwest Florida.

College of Mission Interns
Abimael Betancourt, a student at Claremont School of Theology, and Fiyori Kidane, a student at Texas Christian University, served as College of Mission Interns in the Indianapolis office from June to August in 2018.  Abimael worked on the Caribbean Initiative and Fiyori worked with the Mission Personnel Office.

Collaborative Efforts
Disciples Home Missions and Disciples Women continue to collaborate with Global Ministries in a variety of programmatic areas.  Under the leadership of Sotello Long, the new president of Disciples Home Missions, a new leadership team composed of staff from different ministries has been established to respond to specific requests for resources from congregations and regions.  Cathy Nichols, Vice President of the Division of Overseas Ministries, represents the Division of Overseas Ministries/Global Ministries on this team.  The team is organized to accompany a congregation or region in addressing a specific need.

Disciples Home Missions and the Disciples Women continue to participate in the Global Ministries’ regional initiatives.  Global Ministries facilitated a Woman-to-Woman Pilgrimage to Cuba in 2018.  The Disciples Women are planning a Woman-to-Woman Pilgrimage to southern Asia as part of the next regional initiative and continue to collaborate with Global Ministries related to human trafficking.

The leadership of the National Benevolent Association (NBA) met with the Area Executives and Co-Executives of Global Ministries to explore possible exchanges related to the NBA’s Incubate Initiative.  This is a new program of the NBA that provides expertise and grants to local non-for-profits and for-profit organizations related to health, social development, and micro-enterprise projects.  Representatives from NBA will visit micro-enterprise projects of partners in Southern Asia and Latin America in order to learn about their processes and procedures to determine possibilities for an exchange with similar organizations in the United States and Canada.

The Division of Overseas Ministries/Global Ministries collaborated with the Disciples Peace Fellowship in sponsoring Ricardo (Ricky) Rivera from the United Evangelical Church of Puerto Rico to serve as a Peace Intern during the summer of 2018.  He spoke in a number of Disciples regional youth camps on topics related to the issues facing the church in Puerto Rico and peace.

Staff Changes
Tom Morse resigned from his position of Executive for Mission Engagement, effective April 23, 2018.

Francesca Klein, Program Associate in the Finance Office, resigned, effective August 24, 2018.

Rune Nielsen began as a temporary worker in the Office of Resource Development April 2, 2018, and became a regular DOM employee on June 4, 2018.  She serves as the Database Manager and Administrative Assistant.

Beth Guy, former Program Associate in the Resource Development Office and a former Global Mission Intern became the Director of Communications on August 20, 2018.  Bethany has a B.A. degree from Park University in Parkville, MO and an MTS degree from Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas.

David Barickman began as a Program Associate in the office of Resource Development on October 29, 2018. David has a degree from Christian Theological Seminary.

Yashira Flores began her work as Administrative Assistant in the Mission Personnel Office September 18, 2018.

FINANCE

Lonna Owens, Executive

The Division of Overseas Ministries (DOM) revenue for 2018 is estimated to be nearly $6.5 million.  It is too early to know the actual revenue for the year.

Of the total revenue, some is designated giving for special programs, projects, endowment contributions, capital, and new church funding.  Approximately 25% is from Wider Church Ministries of the United Church of Christ as part of the funding of our joint work together as Global Ministries.  The balance of the revenue comes from Disciples Mission Fund (DMF), investments of DOM, United Christian Missionary Society (UCMS) endowment distributions, Christian Church Foundation (CCF) permanent fund distributions, operating fund gifts and miscellaneous income.

The DOM Endowment assets are invested with the CCF in the Beasley Growth Fund and the Campbell Multi-Strategy Fund.  Annually DOM takes a draw, which is 4.5% of the average prior 20-quarter rolling market value of the total investment.  This draw is used to support operations and designated spending based on the restriction of the endowment.  In 2018, this draw was $569,812 (compared to $656.020 in 2017).

An independent audit is performed annually of the financial records and accounting systems of DOM.  Upon completion of the audit, a complete audit will be provided for the Yearbook and report delivered to the audit committee of the board.  The audit committee will address any material internal control weaknesses found during the audit and suggest improvements to internal controls in a management letter to the board.

RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT

Jane Sullivan-Davis, Executive
Kelsey Cameron, Program Associate
David Barickman, Program Associate

Global Ministries Special Giving and Ministry with Donors – Introduction

In 2018, the Global Ministries Resource Development Office continued to engage members, various expressions of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the United Church of Christ, and other individuals and entities with like-minded commitments to God’s global mission, to provide direct and planned gifts for the work of Global Ministries.  The priorities for all types of special gifts are the following:

1st Priority:    Unrestricted Gifts, used where needed most in the work of Global Ministries

2nd Priority:   Gifts for Mission Co-Worker Support, including intensive efforts on the current experiences in personalized fundraising for mission personnel support

3rd Priority:    Restricted Gifts for donor-specified partner churches/programs or theme-based designations

Strategic Plan Update

The Global Ministries Resource Development Office participated in several of the Global Ministries Strategic Directions during 2018, including Nurturing Community and Sharing the Story. However, the main focus of the work is on Strategic Direction #4:

Developing Resources — To recognize God’s abundance, and growing opportunities for collaboration and generosity by strengthening existing and exploring new funding mechanisms and sources for God’s mission.

In 2018, the Global Ministries Spring Appeal letter was signed by the two Co-Executives and mailed on April 11, 2018, to approximately 29,000 households with a connection to Global Ministries.  The 2018 Indianapolis Year-End Appeal, signed by the President of the Division of Overseas Ministries/Global Ministries, was mailed October 8, 2018, to approximately 15,000 households of Disciple constituents, individual constituents from denominations other than the UCC, and constituents for whom no denominational affiliation is known.

The Global Ministries staff team worked on four personalized fundraising campaigns for Global Ministries mission co-workers. Larry and Deborah Colvin began their service with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Ghana. Continuing cases included those of Monica and Thomas Liddle, serving with the Protestant Church of East Timor, and Paul Turner, serving with the Community of Disciples of Christ in Congo. Anne Gregory concluded her service as a fully-appointed Global Ministries mission co-worker in mid-2018 and has returned as a long-term volunteer serving with the Church of Christ in Thailand. All of the personalized fundraising cases are on track to meet their goal (Colvin) or have surpassed their fundraising goals (Liddles, Turner).

Special Giving promotion continued in 2018 for the Global Ministries Caribbean Initiative: Embrace the Spirit! The special giving component for the Caribbean Initiative consists of special gifts given for ministries in the seven countries involved in the initiative: Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela. As a part of the Caribbean Initiative, special gifts for AMANESER 2025 in Puerto Rico and the House of Hope in Haiti were featured in the 2018 Global Ministries Alternative Christmas campaign. Special giving promotion for the Caribbean Initiative and Alternative Christmas concludes as of Epiphany/Three Kings Day in 2019. Preparations are underway for special giving opportunities related to the new Global Ministries Southern Asia Initiative.

Throughout 2018, the Resource Development team had a special emphasis on planned giving through specific promotions. Promotions included: a monthly emphasis on planned giving, electronic and social media communications about different ways to give planned gifts, one thank you mailing in February 2018 sent to approximately 200 individuals whom Global Ministries has record of being in their estate plans, and a second mailing in March 2018 to 1,400 donors inviting them to consider including Global Ministries in their estate plans. Responses arrived via a response card, phone inquiries, and through the normal donor visit system carried out by staff. The three mechanisms of planned giving were: bequests/estate plans, establishment of endowment/permanent funds, and charitable gift annuities.

Resource Development coordinated with the Mission Personnel, Child and Elder Sponsorship, and area offices in planning and facilitating visits from Global Ministries partner entities in which fundraising for the partner ministry is a component. In April 2018, Resource Development staff helped with the itineration of Ms. Anita Paul of the Family Village Farm in India as she visited individual donors and UCC churches with existing strong connections with the Family Village Farm; and continued with the support of two representatives of the Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico at the regional assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Virginia. Additional international partner visits with a fundraising component are planned for 2019.

AFRICA OFFICE

Marco Cable, Area Executive

Introduction

On July 18, 2018, Nelson Mandela would have turned 100.  Africans across the continent organized celebrations to remember this Ambassador of Peace and African Nationalist.  These tributes, events, and memorials commemorating the Centenary of Nelson Mandela have been a call for reflecting, accessing and recommitting to the causes in which Mr. Mandela committed his life.  Partner churches and organizations are engaging in the political future of their countries.  Responding to the changing political and religious landscape, they are planning for a stronger and more united Africa. It is out of the church’s clear call from the Gospel to engage leaders in all spheres of life that has motivated this involvement in shaping their democracies.  In fact, the African Church offers a more honest way for churches to engage political leadership without becoming partisan in their engagement.  Christianity is rapidly growing on the African continent and this growth is attributed to the church’s holistic approach to ministry. The church is providing spiritual and social engagement guidance to its membership and surrounding communities.  The continent is filled with optimism with changing national governments, more inclusive churches, and young people, born after colonial rule, moving into leadership roles.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo

On May 8, 2018, the Democratic Republic of Congo reported an outbreak of the Ebola virus in the Equator Province in the district of Bikoro. Bikoro sits on the shores of Lake Tumba, about 74 miles from Mbandaka, a city of over one million people and headquarters of the Community of Disciples of Christ in Congo (CDCC). The first two confirmed cases of Ebola were from Bikoro. The CDCC has 25 churches, 20 schools and 11 health care facilities in the Bikoro District. The CDCC Health Department engaged communities in water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) workshops, provided handwashing kits to each church in Mbandaka, along with new protocols for baptism and communion. It is estimated that more than 500,000 were reached through CDCC media campaign. One week after being declared Ebola-free on July 24, 2018, four new cases of the Ebola virus emerged in northeastern Congo.  This is the first time that the northeastern area of the country, which is already suffering from unprecedented violence, has been impacted by Ebola.  The unrest in the area has made it very difficult for international health workers to contain the virus. According to the World Health Organization, the Ebola outbreak in Congo is the second deadliest in history following the West Africa outbreak that claimed thousands of lives in 2014.

On January 16th, Dr. Francisco Ekofo, a Community of Disciples of Christ in Congo pastor and Dean of Theology at the Protestant University gave a sermon at the Protestant Cathedral for the commemoration of the assassination of Laurent Kabila, father of the current president, Joseph Kabila. In that sermon, he gave what some have described as a mild critique of the current government along with a prophetic message.   In his homily, Dr. Ekofo dreamt with the congregation about a nation he would like to leave for his children – a Congo with economic justice, sovereign over its natural resources, where no person was above the law and with a strong infrastructure.  After the service, he and his family received threats from the government including a visit to their home by soldiers.  The UN assisted the Dr. Ekofo and his family to evacuate the Congo.

Zimbabwe
General Elections in Zimbabwe to determine Mr. Robert Mugabe’s successor were held on July 30, 2018. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission declared incumbent Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) candidate, Emmerson Mnangagwe, the president with 50.8% of votes over the Movement for Democratic Change Alliance (MDC) candidate, Nelson Chamisa, 44.3%.  ZANU-PF also received the majority in the House of Assembly.  Within days of the announcement, there were demonstrations across the country organized by the MDC.  The army attacked and open fire on protesters and bystanders, killing six people.

Rev. Dr. Kenneth Mtata, on behalf of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, wrote a Pastoral Letter to Zimbabwe and the international community.  The letter had a number of requests to the ZANU-PF and MDC leadership.  Dr. Mtata requested that ZANU PF, “create avenues for inclusive dialogue and engagement as well as to heed to the complaints raised by the MDC Alliance. The nation needs you to commit to a nation-building dialogue process aimed at uniting the nation and creating an inclusive way forward…. To consider and prioritize a formal constitutional recognition for the leader of the main opposition consistent with practices in other developed democracies.”  And to the MDC, Dr. Mtata wrote, “we also plead with the MDC Alliance leadership to bear in mind the pressing need to maintain peace and not take actions that may easily deteriorate to chaos.  Volatile situations tend to deteriorate and attain a life of their own beyond anyone’s control.  National peace is a mutually responsible endeavor that requires you to play your part towards its full attainment.”  The Council continues to engage with the newly elected administration in areas of justice, equality and stability for Zimbabwe.

South Africa
On February 27, South Africa’s Parliament voted to change Section 25 of the constitution, which deals with property, to allow for land expropriation without compensation.  The issues related to land are some of the key unresolved issues since apartheid was defeated.  It has been a campaign platform for South Africa’s ruling party, African National Congress (ANC), yet little has been done to ensure a peaceful transfer of land to the black majority who are among the poorest in the country.  Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa, announced in his inaugural State of the Nations Address that the government would accelerate land redistribution. In August, United States President, Donald Trump, tweeted that he was directing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to investigate South Africa land reform, farm seizures and the killing of white farmers. South Africa’s government immediately responded to Trump’s misguided tweet and accused Trump of inflaming an already high-octane debate over land in South Africa.  President Ramaphosa in response and in subsequent interviews, speeches, and statements, has ensured South Africans and the world that land reform will be conducted without an impact on economic growth or food security.  The South Africa Council of Churches has been pushing for such land reform since the end of apartheid.  In response to the question of the role of the church when it comes to the issue of land reform, Professor Mandi Kukuni and Mr. Kojo Parris answered: “either as an institution with a prophetic mandate, major landowner or fulcrum of the lives of many in our communities, the church cannot escape involvement in the ongoing debates around land reform.  Further, since the imposition of apartheid, formal institutions of governance in South Africa has been undergoing a deepening crisis of confidence. Unabated even after 1994, the Church is perhaps the largest and most widely spread structure that retains sufficient authority to provide guidance to the broad masses.  Thus, the Church not only has an obligation to address this deeply emotional issue, but it has the access and means – it cannot escape without comment.”  The South Africa Council of Churches has pledged to continue to put pressure on the South African government until a just resolution is found.

Mission Personnel

In 2018, Global Ministries had 11 mission co-workers serving in 7 African nations (Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Lesotho, Sierra Leone, South Africa, and Ghana). They accompany partners in areas of girls’ empowerment, agricultural and community development, education, social justice, theological formation, and hunger programs.

 

EAST ASIA AND THE PACIFIC OFFICE

Derek Duncan, Executive

2018 was a period of new leadership of the East Asia and Pacific office, with extensive partner visits throughout the region, and numerous opportunities to extend solidarity and accompaniment on behalf of Disciples. The following are highlights in the areas of nurturing partnership and working for peace with justice in the region.

South Korea

One of the most notable developments in the region is the progress toward peace on the Korean Peninsula. The year began with the U.S. and Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea (DPRK) escalating threats to the point of potential nuclear war. Global Ministries joined ecumenical efforts to urge the two countries to engage in a process of dialogue instead of brinksmanship.

In March 2018, Korean Churches produced the statement, “Cultivating Peace, Proclaiming Hope,” which reaffirmed the five principles proclaimed in the ‘88 Declaration, still necessary for resolution of division today: Independence, Peace, Grand National Unity, Humanitarianism and People’s Participation. It called on the international ecumenical community to work with “renewed urgency to prevent another war in the Korean Peninsula, to reduce tensions and promote dialogue, and that establishment of a peace treaty for the Korean Peninsula is a critical and immediate necessity for denuclearization and peaceful coexistence on the Peninsula.”

A breakthrough occurred in early 2018 during the South Korean Olympics, followed up by a summit in April between North and South Korea focused on improving “inter-Korean relations” by increasing high-level dialogues, humanitarian exchanges, and cooperative ventures between the two Koreas, gradually transforming the military/security environment between them into a “peace zone,” and to work with international partners to establish a “permanent and solid peace regime” to replace the Korean War armistice agreement.

US President Donald Trump and DPRK leader Kim Jong-un held a follow-up summit in June 2018 in Singapore, pledging mutual steps toward peace, normalization of relations, and denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. While analysts remain wary of the details between the US and North Korea, the commitment to dialogue between North and South Korea seems genuine. Leaders of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ issued a statement following the Singapore Summit called “Peace is a Process”:

The statement says peace “must be pursued” by taking “steps…in good faith toward normalization of relations and, most importantly, steps that can lead to forgiveness, reconciliation, and trust which are necessary for peace to be achieved and sustained.” The denominational leaders continue, “we declare our shared hope that the Singapore Summit may one day achieve its aspirational goal of reconciliation and a just peace in Korea, and affirm together our commitment to making such aspirations for peace a reality.

In the fall, the 103rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea (PROK), was held on the island of Jeju, south of the Republic of Korea. The gathering was an important opportunity to reflect through narrative testimonies and story-telling the issues that many small nations in the Asia-Pacific area face in order to process the pain and grievances of the past, with an aim to collaborate better in advocacy and efforts toward peace and reunification in the Korean Peninsula.

Pacific

In May 2018, the biennial meeting of the Micronesian Council of the United Church of Christ (MCUCC) brought together the churches of Kosrae, Chuuk, and Pohnpei of the FSM and the JRD (Jarin Rarik Dron) in the Marshall Islands. Following the meeting, the Area Executive visited the church in Pohnpei to deliver baccalaureate and commencement addresses to the Ohwa Theological College undergraduate class.

Rev. Tafue Lusama, former General Secretary of the Ekalesia Kelisiano Tuvalu (EKT), or the Congregational Christian Church of Tuvalu, was an international guest at the 2017 Disciples General Assembly.  Reciprocating that invitation, in August 2018, Global Ministries leadership attended the General Assembly of the EKT in Funafuti, Tuvalu hosted by Global Service Worker Nikotemo Sopepa. Rev. Lusama, also a Global Ministries International Board member, traveled to Washington, DC after the April board meeting to speak and present on the subject of Climate Migration at the Ecumenical Advocacy Days annual conference.

The Pacific Theological College (PTC) and the Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC), are running programs addressing the impacts of climate change in the region. The East Asia and Pacific office will continue to look for ways to support the Pacific Conference of Churches and its member churches, especially in their environmental programs throughout the region.

Japan

This year was the 20th anniversary celebration of the Bazaar Café in Kyoto. The Bazaar Café is a café ministry that operates in the Clapboard Inn, a historic property that is being transferred to the Kyoto Conference of the United Church of Christ in Japan. The occasion was also an opportunity to honor the founder of the Bazaar Café, the Rev. Teruko Enomoto, who passed away April 25, 2018. Under the vision and leadership of Rev. Enomoto, the Bazaar Café has developed several ministries of counseling, bible study, and practices of inclusive hospitality to refugees, the LGBT community, and others marginalized or suffering from trauma and in need of community and healing. In addition to her mission appointment teaching at Doshisha University, Global Ministries co-worker Martha Mensendiek supports and volunteers at the Bazaar Café and was close to Rev. Enomoto.

The Fukushima disaster response continues seven years later and emergency relief was provided this year for natural disasters this summer, including record heat waves, intense flooding, and significant storm damage from multiple typhoons. Much of this impact was felt in the southern side of Shikoku and Honshu Islands, from Hiroshima to Kobe and the Kyoto/Osaka areas. The United Church of Christ in Japan has been responding to emergency needs throughout these disasters, with support from One Great Hour of Sharing and Week of Compassion.

Philippines

Bishop Melzar Labuntog was elected new General Secretary of the UCCP at the Assembly, which was held in Cagayan de Oro on the southern Philippines island of Mindanao. The Assembly was held on the first anniversary of the May 2017 attack and burning of Dansalan College in Marawi City, a school of the UCCP that traces its beginning to the early literacy work of Dr. Frank Laubach (1884-1970), a Congregational missionary who developed an interest working with the Moro people of Mindanao and on relations between Muslims and Christians.

The new campus of the Dansalan College Foundation in Iligan City, approximately an hour north of Marawi and west of Cagayan de Oro still employs many of the faculty of the original campus, some of whom were kidnapped during the Marawi attack. It teaches many of the children whose families fled the attack on Marawi and remains committed to teaching its “peace” curriculum which is based on interfaith understanding and community relations. The school, its Principal Fedelinda Tawagan, and its new facility are all impressive and have ambitious goals to serve the UCCP and the region in the area of interfaith community-building. Global Ministries will continue to support Dansalan College and the UCCP as it discerns the future of this vital institution.

The Philippines was severely impacted in mid-September by Typhoon Ompong, which was the strongest storm to hit the northeast Asia-Pacific region in twenty-five years.  Strong winds, followed by flooding and mudslides killed more than 100 and injured and displaced thousands, particularly in the North Luzon Jurisdiction – Cagayan Valley, Ilocos and Cordillera regions. The UCCP has been responding to the numerous emergency needs, with support from One Great Hour of Sharing and Week of Compassion.

Hong Kong

In August Global Ministries staff traveled to Hong Kong to visit partners, including the Hong Kong Christian Council, the Hong Kong Council of the Christian Church in China, the Chung Chi College Divinity School, Hong Kong Christian Service, and the Asia and Pacific Alliance of YMCAs (APAY). The visit also included the opportunity to worship with and learn about the Kowloon Union Church and the cooperative outreach efforts of the Asia Pacific Migrant Ministry with the numerous refugees and migrant and domestic workers in Hong Kong.

Of special note, long-term mission co-worker Bruce Van Voorhis retired in 2018 after 27 years of service to Global Ministries. Bruce’s last appointment was organizing and conducting human rights workshops for Interfaith Cooperation Forum (ICF), a joint program of the Asia and Pacific Alliance of YMCAs (APAY) in Hong Kong and the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and editing ICF’s monthly e-newsletter faith and peace. Previously he worked with the Asian Human Rights Commission and the Christian Conference of Asia. Global Ministries celebrates and gives thanks for the gifts and service Bruce has dedicated in ministry with our partners to the work of God’s mission in the world.

LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN OFFICE

Angel L. Rivera-Agosto, Area Executive

Introduction: With Faith and Living Hope

At the last Assembly of the Evangelical Pentecostal Union of Venezuela (UEPV), this Global Ministries’ partner affirmed its identity within “original Pentecostalism.”  “Original Pentecostalism” is the deep expression of a spirituality which anchors its roots in the national ecclesial expressions of Latin American and Caribbean countries and its connection to the processes of affirmation of human rights, social justice, and spirituality of solidarity. In songs and liturgies, and the sharing of daily reflections, the UEPV affirmed its connection with the Venezuelan culture, as well as its particular Pentecostal identity.

As we end this year of witnessing God´s presence in Latin America and the Caribbean, we cannot avoid feeling in our spirit, mind, and will the spiritual strength of solidarity.  Our partners continued embracing the Spirit through receiving pilgrimages, sponsoring workshops and projects, sharing resources, and confronting the powers that deny the fullness of life. The Caribbean Initiative came to a close with resources and experiences that will endure not only in the work of the region, but also globally.  The accompaniment of our partners through civil unrest, migration, and emergencies awakened a divine presence, offering an opportunity to hear and share the Good News.

Puerto Rico
Both the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the U.S.A. and Canada and the United Church of Christ have accompanied Global Ministries’ partners through the humanitarian crisis lived on the island after the passing of Hurricane María in 2017.  On November 25, 2017, a delegation of the DOC General Ministries, led by the Reverend Teresa “Terri” Hord-Owens, DOC´s General Minister and President, was invited by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Puerto Rico to participate in their Administrative Board Meeting held that month.  In that meeting, the Administrative Board expressed gratitude for the solidarity and the accompaniment of its sister churches in the U.S. and Canada. Reverend Julia Brown Karimu, President of the Division of Overseas Ministries and Global Ministries’ Co-Executive and the Global Ministries Area Executive for Latin America and the Caribbean were part of that delegation. In the afternoon of the 25th, both Reverends Brown Karimu and Rivera-Agosto participated in the Joint Commission Meeting of both U.S. and Canada and Puerto Rico churches.  There, both leaders presented reports about the work of Global Ministries throughout the world, specifically in Latin America and the Caribbean. Later in that week, a delegation composed by representatives of the Latin America and the Caribbean Office of Global Ministries, Week of Compassion and UCC Disaster Ministries visited projects and partners on the island.   They had the opportunity to visit the Ryder Hospital in Humacao, the Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico as well as two communities in Bayamón and Naranjito related to the work of Amaneser 2025.

Jamaica
The Reverend Julia Brown Karimu, President of the Overseas Ministries Division and Co-Executive of the Global Ministries with the Global Ministries Executive for Latin America and the Caribbean, visited partners in Jamaica from February 7-12, 2018. During their visit, both leaders of Global Ministries had the opportunity to dialogue with the United Church of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, the United Theological College for the Western Isles and the International University of the Caribbean.  The context of unemployment, violence and crime has placed the church in the call to strengthen the ministries of local, economic development with emphasis on education and capacity building, as well as attention to the protection and shelter of children and strengthening the family. Reverends Brown Karimu and Rivera Agosto participated in a celebration worship for the 25 years of ministry of the United Church in Hellshire, a congregation located in the capital, and witnessed the appreciation for the ministry of William and Veronica Kyle, former mission co-workers of Global Ministries, who served and contributed to the construction of their house of worship.

Dominican Republic

As part of the Caribbean Initiative, ten members of the Common Global Ministries Board traveled to the Dominican Republic the first week of April 2018. There, they met and visited projects of partners to celebrate relationships and to receive and share the Good News of Jesus Christ.  The group had the opportunity to visit Social Services of the Dominican Churches (SSID), Proyecto Educativo Caminante, the Christian Center of Family Counseling (CECAF), ALFALIT Dominicano and the Evangelical Dominican Church.  Particularly with the EDC, the delegation lived the experience of worshipping God in a Caribbean context and knowing what does it mean to be a church in the Dominican Republic.  Issues like the rights of stateless people, human trafficking, the right to water and sustainable development were deep in the agenda of the pilgrimage. They had the chance to visit a Dominican-Haitian marginalized community in the outskirts of Santo Domingo, talked and shared with the families in that community.  As one of the participants shared in a written report “I felt honored and privileged to have been able to be in the Dominican Republic and take these gifts back home with me. It will be my job as a Global Ministries board member to explain critical presence and mutuality to my congregation and friends.  This amazing trip has given me a renewed purpose of taking the strategic direction of Global Ministries to heart and spread this message within my community.”

El Salvador:

Both Emmanuel Baptist Church (EBC) and the Salvadorian Lutheran Synod (SLS) are engaged in exciting work toward a culture of peace. Their projects address the root causes of violence, injustice, and migration. SLS focuses on trauma healing, ecumenical and inter-religious networking, communications, health and wellness, elementary and middle school projects, and the work with “maras” or youth gangs. EBC prioritizes youth cultural projects, Christian Education, local grants for students, youth efforts in peace mediation and sustainable development. There are also prophetic issues that our friends are working on in El Salvador. The right to clean water is addressed by the Salvadorian Ecumenical Movement (composed by mainline Protestant churches along with the Roman Catholic Church and religious institutions such as the Central American University), to address the Salvadorian Legislative Assembly’s proposed bill that would privatize access to clean water.

Nicaragua

Nicaragua is living difficult times. The Nicaraguan Evangelical Council (CEPAD, acronym in Spanish) and the Interchurch Center for Theological and Social Studies (CIEETS, acronym in Spanish), reported incidents of violence caused by protests against several structural reforms and policies that the government of Nicaragua has tried to put into effect in recent times – the most remarkable being the one regarding the Social Security Law. This generated a great number of protests across the country, especially from the university students. These protests led to people being killed—students, one policeman, one journalist, innocent bystanders, and other protesters. Global Ministries approved support to our partners through One Great Hour of Sharing (UCC) and Week of Compassion (Disciples) providing funds for medical needs, food, and other supplies to people affected by the present situation in Nicaragua.  Global Ministries has provided accompaniment with the presence of mission co-worker, Jeanette Salley, and global service worker, Ignacio Salinas.

Guatemala
On Sunday, June 3, 2018, at 2:00 p.m. local time in Guatemala, Volcán del Fuego erupted, the most violent eruption of the last 40 years. It impacted the central and southern regions of the country: Sacatepéquez, Escuintla, Chimaltenango, and Guatemala City. The volcano exploded and launched pyroclastic flows (a mixture of sand, rocks, and gases of high temperatures +600 degrees) that directly hit the communities surrounding the volcano. In the most remote areas, the effects included rain, sand, and ash, which interrupted air traffic in the afternoon and evening of Sunday, damaging roofs as well as crops.  The Ecumenical Christian Council of Guatemala (ECCG), one of Global Ministries’ partners in Guatemala along with CONAVIGUA, have been actively assisting communities near the volcano, particularly in the province of Esquintla where the Catholic Diocese of that town is also working. ECCG is working through the post-emergence stage of the crisis by collaborating in the rehabilitation of communities, ensuring food, security and psychosocial assistance to the victims, specifically the ones that still live in shelters provided by the Diocese. Global Ministries has provided an effective accompaniment through the presence of our partners, our mission co-worker Ricardo Mayol, and funds for projects provided by UCC’s Disaster Ministries and Disciples’ Week of Compassion.

U.S. Mexico Border
The recent Central America Caravan posed a challenge to the people on both sides of the border and raised the issues of the rights of immigrants and the root causes of migration, not only in Central America but also in other parts of the world.  People are fleeing from countries like Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala because of internal violence, poverty, and climate changeFaith communities continue to show the religious significance of unity and love in the face of increased barriers for asylum seekers and unaccompanied children, which impede our moral and legal obligations to offer protection to vulnerable populations.  Both DOC and UCC churches have been active, participating in the accompaniment of the caravan, leading workshops and visits to the border and signing advocacy documents affirming the rights and the humanity of migrants. Global Ministries visited the Brownsville/Matamoros Border from October 9-11, 2018.  Reverend David Vargas, Global Ministries´ President Emeritus and the Latin America and Caribbean Area Executive led a delegation of DOC General Ministries staff, including the Reverend Teresa “Terri” Hord-Owens, General Minister and President, to express solidarity with Global Ministries partner Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries (SWGSM).  Feliberto Pereira, SWGSM´s Executive Director and Founder, gave us a full report of the conditions and challenges of refugees and asylum seekers on that part of the border. He also took us to the places where the migrants arrived, seeking asylum as well as to shelters where they receive food and medical assistance.

Colombia

Reverends John C. Dorhauer and Teresa “Terri” Hord Owens, General Ministers and Presidents of the United Church of Christ in the U.S. and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the U.S. and Canada, and the two Global Ministries´ Co-Executives, Reverends Julia Brown Karimu and James Moos, signed a letter sent to the Peace Discussion Table, composed by the Government of Colombia and the National Liberation Army-ELN, to resume peace talks as they have been taking place in Quito, Ecuador. They expressed their grave concern for the challenges facing the peace talks at events such as the attack on the police station in Barranquilla (Soledad – Atlántico), the bombing of an indigenous reservation in Chocó province and the recent wave of assassinations of social leaders could erode trust in the possibility of a sustainable and lasting peace accord among both parties and the people of Colombia. In light of President Juan Manuel Santos’ decision to suspend the fifth round of negotiations at that moment, the church leaders encouraged both sides to return to the negotiations and continue with the agreed upon agenda, to declare a bilateral ceasefire agreement, that could be verified and bring peace to the Colombian people and to show political will from each side to facilitate the continuation of the negotiations. Similarly, they invited the guarantor and accompanier nations to maintain their support for the peace talks as a means to achieving peace in Colombia.

Global Ministries participated in a sign-on campaign for churches and faith-based organizations in response to a death threat against the Christian Centre for Justice, Peace and Nonviolent Action (JUSTAPAZ).  JUSTAPAZ learned of a communiqué in which an illegal armed group, self-identified as “Águilas Negras” (Black Eagles), threatened to kill a group of social leaders, human rights defenders, organizers, and journalists. JUSTAPAZ was included in the list. Responding to these threats and as part of the international community, the two Global Ministries´ Co-Executives and the Area Executive for Latin America and the Caribbean expressed their solidarity, support, and accompaniment of JUSTAPAZ in the face of this threat. They and the rest of the signatories of the document rejected all forms of violence that could affect the staff of JUSTAPAZ and the communities that they accompany in different regions of Colombia. They also demanded that the government of Colombia act with celerity and efficacy in investigating and judging those responsible for the death threats against JUSTAPAZ. Additionally, they demanded the provision of appropriate protective measures for the staff of JUSTAPAZ and the communities they accompany, with the goal of guaranteeing the continuity of the human rights and peacebuilding efforts they accompany, as a faith-based organization in Colombia.

Cuba
On March 9, 2018, Reverends John C. Dorhauer and Teresa “Terri” Hord Owens, General Ministers and Presidents of the United Church of Christ in the U.S. and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the U.S. and Canada, accompanied other heads of communion signing a letter addressed to the U.S. Congress regarding the reestablishment of the U.S. Embassy in Cuba and to continue strengthening relations between both countries.  The heads of communion expressed their great concern about recent U.S. decisions regarding our Embassy in Havana, the suspension of visas and the State Department travel advisory. As a consequence of mysterious and unexplained health issues reported by some U.S. personnel serving at the U.S. Embassy in Cuba, the U.S. Department of State ordered the departure of all nonessential U.S. diplomats from the embassy in Havana, Cuba.  This has resulted in a suspension of virtually all consular services at the embassy. Cuban citizens wanting to visit family in the United States for emergencies, connect with church partners, or to attend faith-based meetings or assemblies are unable to do so. As a matter of fact, the suspension of visa processing within Cuba requires any Cuban citizen wishing to apply for a visa to do so at a U.S. Embassy outside of Cuba. The increasing costs and complications of the application process—which requires rescheduling interviews, obtaining visas for third countries, international travel, and paying to stay there for at least two weeks—have caused much anguish among our Cuban partners on the island and their families abroad. That decision has affected new economic possibilities in Cuba, where Cubans have opened privately owned bed-and-breakfasts and restaurants, as well as other small businesses. With the downturn in U.S. travel, these private businesses have suffered a severe loss of customers and income. Many of them have been forced to close. The leaders urged the U.S. Congress to press the administration for the re-staffing of the embassy in Havana, the reinstitution of consular services at the embassy, and the removal of the travel advisory for U.S. citizens to travel to the island.

The Caribbean Initiative (CI)
During this past year and a half, Global Ministries has been engaged in the promotion and execution of the Caribbean Initiative (CI).  Through the initiative, we invited the whole church to witness together with the Caribbean region through education, advocacy, and support of our partner churches and organizations in Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and Colombia.  Church leaders, congregations, regions, and conferences experienced the incredible gifts and the strong testimonios (testimonies) from our partners as they receive and share the Good News of Jesus Christ. A variety of resources have been shared including Bible studies, music, liturgical materials, unique giving opportunities, People-to-People Pilgrimages, videos, children´s resources, and more. In addition, discussions related to the universal challenges contained in this initiative, like the quest for peace and sustainable development in the face of climate change has been addressed through the materials and the pilgrimages across the Caribbean.

More than 30 different written, audio, and video materials as well as recorded webinars were published on our website and are still there for future reference, study, and use.  That includes Bibles studies, background documents for witness and advocacy, thematic presentations by partners, liturgical materials for special occasions and worship.  You can access the materials through our website.  One of the most important materials in the initiative has to do with the children.  By inviting children to “Embrace the Fruits of the Spirit,” the initiative developed a Vacation Bible School curriculum designed to help children discover the fruits of the spirit and how to apply them in their daily lives while exploring the Caribbean.

To grasp the experience of the Caribbean Initiative, it has been crucial to fully recognize the inspiring work of our partners in the region.  One of the examples we can quote regarding the witness of a partner is through the challenges of the ongoing peace process in Colombia.  Through meeting our partners, leaders from our churches have reflected upon the contrasts between what they read in the news and the testimonies from the people who put their own commitment and bodies on the line for the cause of peace and justice.  The same can be reported from the church delegations that traveled to countries like the Dominican Republic and Cuba to be present in the lives of the brothers and sisters with whom we collaborate in a spirit of international solidarity. However, a most profound journey that we can describe from the experiences of those pilgrimages during this past year is that of inner transformation to embrace mission from a different perspective.

Another way in which the Caribbean Initiative connected people in mission was through giving opportunities.  By this key element in mission, churches, conferences, and congregations connected with our partners in the Caribbean.  Partners like House of Hope in Haiti and AMANESER 2025 in Puerto Rico could develop their ministries regarding the defense of children’s human rights and solar-powered communities, respectively, thanks to donations from DOC and UCC congregations.  Leaders from the Evangelical Dominican Church and JUSTAPAZ in Colombia could participate in mission-in-residence experiences in the U.S., sharing their experiences with local congregations and networks.

When we embrace peace, when we embrace justice, when we embrace hope, we do what our partners in the Caribbean have been doing throughout the history of all of their ministries: putting their own bodies, their own circumstances and realities into their commitment for the Gospel and the sharing of the Good News.  How can we put our own bodies at stake, if we are about to talk about commitment, ministry, mission, the sake of justice, peace, hope and the fullness of life?  May this initiative, as the ones that came before this one: the Congo and the Middle East Initiatives and the upcoming Southern Asia Initiative, continue inviting the church to go deeper into our vision that all people and creation share in God’s abundant life.

 

MIDDLE EAST AND EUROPE OFFICE

Peter Makari, Area Executive

The theme for the 2019 General Assembly, “Abide in Me,” comes from Jesus’ reminder that, as Christians, we cannot live full lives without faith.  Jesus said, “Abide in me as I abide in you.  Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.  Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5).  The relationship Jesus describes is one of ultimate mutuality: each depends on the other to bear fruit.  In mission, and specifically in the Middle East and Europe, the many relationships we nurture are based on a similar mutuality, which Global Ministries describes as “walking in hope with others in God’s mission.”  In 2018, throughout the Middle East and Europe, Global Ministries walks with, our partners to nurture a deeper community, to pursue peace with justice, and to further God’s mission in the world.

In 2018 in the Middle East and Europe, Global Ministries sought to nurture community—to accompany partners in witnessing to God’s abundant grace through the proclamation of the Gospel, and exchanges of people, gifts and talents—in a variety of ways.  With an intensification of unhelpful US policies toward the Middle East, it was perhaps especially necessary to ensure that we engage our partners in ways that were mutually edifying.

Through regular communication and engagement with partners throughout the Middle East and Europe during the year, and in visits to the region to visit particular partners in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel/Palestine, Greece, and Morocco, the realities of the continuing displacement of people on a massive scale, the impact of US policy decisions related to Israel/Palestine, and socio-political and economic realities in each context inform and affect the abilities and priorities of our partners, and our participation with them in their ministries and witness—yet our long-term accompaniment which remains steady and steadfast.

Syria
In many countries, the eight-year Syria war continues to impact daily life—for those who have been displaced and those to whom they have fled.  Several partners in Syria, the Middle East, and Europe are actively engaged in addressing the urgent humanitarian needs of the half of the Syrian population who have been forcibly uprooted. Global Ministries, with the generous contributions of Disciples and UCC members, contributes to that response, which is personal, humane, and continuous.  Even as the fighting has ebbed and the world’s attention seems to have moved on, the fact that so many millions remain as refugees and internally displaced requires the persistent care and response from the global community.

Egypt
Eight years after the beginning of the so-called “Arab Spring” and the Egyptian revolution that captured the imagination of people everywhere, the country has passed through significant political change, and the economy is struggling.  The population has reached 100 million, all living on a narrow strip of land along the Nile River.  Our partners there, the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services (CEOSS) and the Coptic Orthodox Bishopric for Public, Ecumenical, and Social Services (BLESS) are deeply engaged in local community development to address the needs of the poorest of the poor.  Additionally, CEOSS has initiated interreligious and intercultural dialogue to improve relations in the country and between the people of Egypt and others.  From June 24-29, 2018, CEOSS brought a seven-person delegation from Egypt to encounter interested institutions and partners in the United States as part of an Egyptian-US Dialogue Initiative, with the support of Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ.  In an intense week of meetings, public fora, and advocacy in Chicago and Washington, DC, the delegation strove to provide a more complete and human perspective on the realities of life in Egypt today, and to explore ways that the relationships between Egypt and the US could be strengthened—governmentally as well as through public diplomacy, civil society, and religious institutions.  The dialogue initiative is part of an ongoing emphasis that began in October 2014, and will be followed by a reciprocal visit in Egypt in February 2019, and a further encounter in 2020.

Israel-Palestine
In 2018, US policy directions toward Israel/Palestine resulted in an exaggeration of support for Israel at the expense of rights and justice for Palestinians, including the less than 2% of the population that is Christian.  These shifts included the fallout of the decision to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, defunding the UN Relief and Works Agency which is responsible for large-scale programs for Palestinian refugees, and efforts to curtail speech that supports Palestinian rights.  Global Ministries walked in solidarity with Palestinian partners through visits and through advocacy.in 2018, participating in a conference of the YWCA of Palestine called “Youth Participate and Youth Decide: Towards Freedom and Justice” in October, supporting United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250 which urges “UN organizations and civil society to consider ways to increase meaningful and inclusive participation of youth in building a sustainable future that promotes justice, respect, and security. The prolonged military occupation of Palestine and the consistent violations of rights, targeted mostly against young women and men, have created a desperate and hopeless state for youth.”  We also participated in the annual olive harvest, a program of solidarity organized by the Joint Advocacy Initiative of the YWCA and YMCAs in Palestine. Further, Global Ministries was represented at the 9th annual conference of Kairos Palestine, a seminal document-turned-movement offering an authentic and important voice of Palestinian Christians. Further, Global Ministries signed two major ecumenical statements and letters, on the occasion of 70 years since the founding of the State of Israel and the Palestinian Nakba (“catastrophe”), and on the dangerous shifts in US policy toward Israel/Palestine named above, by supporting peace, justice, and equality. This, in addition to continuous advocacy efforts throughout the year to urge peace and resolution to conflict in the region, including Syria and Yemen, with a more just US policy.

Europe
Global Ministries continues to pay close attention to the ways that our partners provide bold and humane voices and responses to the refugee presence, often dubbed a crisis.  In Italy with the Waldensian Church’s Mediterranean Hope, in Greece through the Evangelical Church’s Perichoresis, and with the Reformed Church in Hungary, our partners are offering a vision and actions that boldly reject the anti-immigrant sentiment—and even policies—of their societies and governments. By appointing mission co-workers to serve with these church partners, and by supporting their witness, Global Ministries and our partners live out God’s radical love by confronting powers that deny the fullness of life and the integrity of creation.  In addition, Global Ministries affirmed a formal relationship with the Church of Scotland, a communion with which we have worked positively over the years. Such an affirmation reflects our core value to build interdependence and unity among all of God’s children.

Through partner relations, advocacy for peace with justice, the appointment of mission co-workers, financial support for programs, participation in interfaith relations, and by sharing the stories of our partners and the people they serve, Global Ministries’ engagement in the Middle East and Europe reflects a commitment to Christ’s love and God’s mission, and a belief that, in order to share with partners to work for God’s justice, peace and reconciliation. Neither we nor our partners can do it alone.  We are intertwined with our partners as vines and branches, bearing a fruit that is not always easy to recognize, but fruit indeed—the fruit of shared participation in God’s mission.

 

SOUTHERN ASIA OFFICE

Deenabandhu Manchala, Area Executive

Populist politics fueled by religious supremacist versions of nationhood in India, a fragile democratic formation in an atmosphere of terrorism in Pakistan, subversion of constitutional norms and democratic institutions in Sri Lanka, unprecedented floods in Kerala, India and the earthquake in Palu in Indonesia that saw thousands dead, and the continued displacement and dehumanization of many marginalized sections for economic growth and unrestrained industrialization, are the backdrop of the context in which Global Ministries partners in southern Asia region find themselves as they strive for justice, peace and dignity for all.

East Timor
As a follow up to a survey and evaluation of IPTL-GM partnership in Lisadila, a vocational training school in horticulture has started from November 2018. It will become fully operational in about six months and will benefit many families, especially as it addresses the employment needs of those who have no access to higher education in this remote part of the country. Capacity building of IPTL Pastors continues as Rev. Tom Liddle, a GM mission co-worker facilitates training in partnership with the leadership of the IPTL.

Indonesia
Global Ministries provides agricultural training farm for farmers and pastors in organic farming and herbicides, and staff development of the Theological School in Lewa (STT, Lewa) in Sumba, Indonesia. Global Ministries also supports GMIT’s (Protestant Church in West Timor) the House of Hope, Kupang, Indonesia which has recently been opened to be a shelter for women rescued from traffickers in the Nusa Tengara region of Indonesia. Additionally, there is an active collaboration with other partner organizations agencies such as the UnitingWorld of the Uniting Church in Australia and civil society organizations working on issues of human trafficking and religious freedom.

Sri Lanka
The Church of American Ceylon Mission continues to receive special attention. It has had its biennial assembly at which a new constitution, covenanting themselves to be a congregational church, was adopted. Global Ministries continues to help resolve divisions within, and the consistent accompaniment seems to be resulting in positive developments.  Global Ministries’ facilitated events in 2017 and 2018 have resulted in some concrete planning for mission engagement in the Wanni region of Sri Lanka and for its life and ministries during the next four years (2018-2022).

Partnerships for God’s Justice in solidarity with the victims of human trafficking: Asia, especially Southern Asia, is perhaps the largest cluster of countries where the socially and economically disempowered people are constantly deprived of their livelihoods, displaced, forced to migrate and thus fall prey to traffickers.  This reality has presented itself as an opportunity for Global Ministries in its ongoing exploration for new meanings and expressions of partnership. Through a call to be in solidarity with victims of human trafficking, Global Ministries in collaboration with the Protestant Church in West Timor, Indonesia (GMIT) convened a gathering of church workers, activists, and theologians to reflect on the meaning of partnership for God’s justice. About 53 people from 11 countries met for five days in Kupang, Indonesia. The gathering provided an opportunity for those present to learn from one another’s expertise and experience, develop new partnerships, and to resolve on mutual accompaniment. It affirmed the need for partnerships for justice in contexts where forces of evil and death seem to collaborate to abuse and dehumanize the vulnerable people. The conference participants attempted to reimagine partnership beyond resource sharing and bilateralism, particularly when faced with common challenges, such as human trafficking and forced migration beyond other things. They asserted that partnership in mission is inclusive of all who are committed to the values of justice, peace, and human dignity, and hence is and has to be multi-directional.  The conference participants resolved to work together vigorously through the new partnerships that were facilitated during their time together in Kupang. A full-length report is available on the Global Ministries website.

Forum for Freedom of Religion or Belief:
Many religious minority communities in Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka are facing new and complex threats on account of the increasing nexus between political powers and religious fundamentalist forces. This forum will give visibility and strengthen advocacy efforts of the civil society organizations and faith communities in their respective countries as well as in the region. It was formally launched in Bangkok, Thailand in December 2018. Global Ministries has played a key role in the formation of this forum for rights and justice to the marginalized communities in South Asia.

Celebrating Diversity: Global Ministries’ Southern Asia Area Focus, 2019-20

Global Ministries invites its constituencies to focus their efforts on learning and solidarity with communities and churches in a specific region for a two-year long process. In 2013-14, the Democratic Republic of Congo was the focus, 2015-16 the Middle East, and 2017-18 the Caribbean. 2019-20 will be an occasion for learning, being challenged and enriched by different expressions of Christian witness in certain distinct and diverse contexts of Southern Asia. It will be an opportunity for learning and interaction in order to be challenged and enriched by different expressions of Christian witness in select contexts of Southern Asia. It will explore and attempt new expressions of partnerships, with an emphasis on facilitating and nurturing partnerships for justice to the marginalized people. The four foci will be: 1. Struggles for an affirmation of human dignity in response to human trafficking, slavery, and forced migration. 2. Freedom of religion as a human right in the emerging context of aggressive assertions of majoritarian religio-political ideologies. 3. Churches as open, just and inclusive communities amidst cultures of discrimination and exclusion. 4. Agriculture as counter-culture to industrial and consumer cultures that destroy earth’s resources and commodify people and relationships.

 

MISSION PERSONNEL

Catherine Nichols, Executive
Lorna Hernandez, Coordinator, People-to-People Program

Mission Personnel
As a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world, the Division of Overseas Ministries/Global Ministries participates in ministries which attempt to break the divide among God’s people by partnering with churches and church-related organizations in the sending and receiving of missionaries.  The exchange of people and their gifts unites people across geographical, racial, gender, and economic barriers.  A critical component of this ministry includes the presence of missionaries in congregations, allowing congregations to share the vital ministries of the partner churches and our people to people pilgrimages, which offer individuals and congregations opportunities to cross boundaries and share the love of God as they receive the love of God from those they encounter.

Through the Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ, mission co-workers are participating in ministries of critical presence around the world.  They are engaged in a variety of ministries including theological education, leadership development, community and development work, human rights, health ministries, children’s ministries, and pastoral ministries.

A total of 105 mission co-workers served in 43 countries in 2018, serving in the following categories:  27 fully-supported mission co-workers; 30 global service workers (long-term volunteers); 10 global mission interns; and 38 global associates.  The distribution of fully-supported mission co-workers by area:  Africa, 7; East Asia and the Pacific, 4; Middle East and Europe, 5; Latin America and the Caribbean, 6; and Southern Asia, 5. In addition, 20 individuals served as short-term volunteers.

Seventeen persons were appointed to church and/or church-related institutions around the world, including ten re-appointees.  Terms varied from fully-supported to Global Service Workers.  This distribution by area of total appointments was Africa 6; East Asia and the Pacific 1; Europe 2; Latin America and the Caribbean 3; Middle East 3; Southern Asia 1.

Eight new fully-supported Mission Co-workers were appointed or re-appointed in 2018:  Kahala Cannon, Swaziland; Larry and Debbie Colvin, Ghana; Fritz-Gerald Joseph and Emmanuela Loccident, Morocco; Fiona Kendall, Italy; Jeffrey Mensendiek, Japan; Michelle McKay, Haiti; and, Mark Knowles and Danielle Murry-Knowles, Lesotho.

One new global mission intern was appointed through Week of Compassion funds in 2018:  Danielle Lee, Korea.  Six new Global Service Workers (one year or longer) were appointed during 2018:  Maria Breckenridge, Zambia; Ros Gnatt, Germany; Benjamin Drolet, Lebanon; Anne Gregory, Thailand; A. Violeta Rocha, El Salvador; and, Ignacio Salinas, Nicaragua.

There were 20 short-term volunteers (two weeks to eleven months) appointed in 2018 who served in or will serve in 2019.  List of names and term dates are available upon request.

The overseas associate category is a recognition normally given to members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ who are serving outside of the United States and Canada with a church, ecumenical institution or project that involves a ministry that is in accordance with the mission principles of the Common Global Ministries Board. There was one new associate appointment in 2018:  Ainsley Anderson, Japan.

Seven individuals completed their service with Global Ministries in the category of fully-supported appointees:  Mark Behle, Lesotho, retiring after 34 years of service; Amelia Casillas, Paraguay; Anil and Teresa Henry, India; Loren McGrail, Israel-Palestine; Susan Valiquette, South Africa, after 20 years of service; and, Bruce Van Voorhis, Hong Kong, retiring after 28 years of service.

Five Global Mission Interns completed their service in 2018:  Joanines Adorno-Diaz, India; Mary Kathryn Ball, Ecuador; Stewart Barker, Swaziland; Joshua Busick, Dominican Republican; and, Toni Reynolds, Dominican Republic.

Twelve individuals completed their service as Global Service Worker in 2018:  Pedro Carlo-Muñiz, Paraguay; Scott Couper, South Africa, after 20 years of service; Eleazar Fernandez, Philippines; Jerri Handy, Mexico; Nancy Lott-Henry, India; Linda James, Democratic Republic of Congo; Susan “Andy” Jepson and Lindley Kinerk, Sri Lanka;  Lauren Robinson, Philippines; Magyolene Rodriguez, Nicaragua; Bethany Waggoner, Lebanon; and, Allison Trezona, United Kingdom.

Missionary Relationships
From January 1 – December 31, 2018, 24 missionaries were involved in a ministry of critical presence through missionary visits and relationship building:

Amelia Casillas (1 month) Paraguay; Anne Gregory (3 months) Thailand; Bruce Van Voorhis, (4 months) Hong Kong; Jeffrey Mensendiek (1 Month) Japan; Scott Couper (1 month) South Africa;  Susan Valiquette-Couper (4 Months) South Africa; Kearstin Bailey (1 months) Hungary/ Greece; Lindley Kinerk and Susan Jepson (2 months); Jerri Handy, Mexico (2 months), Mark Behle (4 months) Lesotho; Loren McGrail, Israel/Palestine (4 months); Mary Kathryn Ball (1 month) Ecuador; Joshua Busick (1 month) Dominican Republic; Stewart Barker (1 month) Swaziland; Lauren Robinson (1 month) Philippines; Allison Trezona (1 month) United Kingdom; Magdolyne Rodriguez (1 month) Nicaragua; Joye and Bob Ray (2 days); Toni Reynolds (1 month) Dominican Republic; Mary and Gary Olney-Lord (2 days); Joani Adorno, India (2 months); Tom Liddle, Timor, (2 months),  Monica Liddle, Timor, (2 months); Larry and Debbie Colvin, Ghana, (2 months).

People-to-People Pilgrimages
The People-to-People Pilgrimage Program continues to assist Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ congregations, regions, conferences, and other related organizations with mission pilgrimages to meet our international partners face-to-face. In 2018, the People-to-People office assisted with inquiries, provided educational materials and supported delegations, resulting in 67 mission pilgrimages. The numbers of pilgrimages per area were 3 to Africa, 4 to the Middle East and Europe, 3 to Southern Asia, 2 to East Asia and the Pacific, and 55 to Latin America and the Caribbean. The countries visited were Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Israel/Palestine, Jamaica, Mexico, Morocco, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Philippines, South Africa, and South Korea. The Guides for Leaders, Participants, and Advocacy are still available to delegations in an effort to prepare them before, during, and after their international pilgrimage. The Caribbean Initiative offered and experienced an increase of pilgrimages to this region, which was a focus this year on the webpage, designed to offer information on costs, itineraries, and partner information.

 

GLOBAL ADVOCACY AND EDUCATION

Rebekah Choate, Program Associate

The Global Advocacy and Education program provides leadership in implementing the Global Ministries strategic direction “Working for Peace with Justice.” The advocacy program coordinates with the area offices in relation to regional justice issues that are of concern to our global partners and the communities they serve, and responses are guided by the actions and position of our partners. Opportunities to take action in response to regional or global advocacy concerns include awareness-raising in Global Ministries updates, on the website, and using social media; through supportive letters, statements and solidarity actions by denominational leaders; engaging Disciples members in ecumenical advocacy campaigns and initiatives; and by resourcing board and General Assembly actions.

A cornerstone advocacy event Global Ministries sponsors is the annual conference Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice. The 2018 Ecumenical Advocacy Days conference, held April 20-23, was titled “A World Uprooted: Responding to Migrants, Refugees, and Displaced People”. The 2019 Ecumenical Advocacy Days, entitled “Troubling the Waters for the Healing of the World,” will be held April 5-8, 2019. As the Main Representative accredited to the United Nations, the associate participated in a WCC symposium on the role of religion and faith-based organizations in international affairs with a theme of, “Perspectives on Migration: Displacement and Marginalization, Inclusion and Justice. Global Ministries was also represented in the first Disciples Public Presence meeting of grassroots activists in September 2018 in order to network and resource local church leaders and activists with global advocacy tools.

With the Africa office, Global Ministries works with partners to support peaceful and democratic elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Elections were supposed to be held in November 2016, they then were postponed to December 2017, and have now been scheduled for December 2018. US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, has been calling for elections to take place and for a peaceful transfer of power, which is a good thing. Global Ministries will continue to work with partners to support democracy, peace, and human rights in the Congo and in the surrounding region.

With the East Asia and the Pacific office, Global Ministries provides support for implementing the 2015 Disciples resolution “A Call for Peace, Justice, and Reunification in the Korean Peninsula.” In 2018, attention focused on the steps towards calming tensions, particularly the summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un. The associate was also a delegate to the NCCK’s 2018 Peace Treaty Campaign in Japan and South Korea. Peace and human rights in the Philippines is a priority for Global Ministries’ advocacy and has been focused on indigenous peoples’ rights and the extra-judicial killings under the Duterte government’s war on drugs.

With the Latin America and the Caribbean office, the focus of advocacy for the Caribbean initiative is on relations with Cuba, the peace accords in Colombia, the status of Puerto Rico, the economic situation in Venezuela, climate change and the hurricanes that ravaged the Caribbean in 2017, and the situation of migrants and refugees. In particular, advocacy backgrounders were produced on issues talked about during the webinars.

With the Middle East and Europe office, advocacy focuses on peace, human rights, and demilitarization throughout the region. Many of the action alerts come as part of the implementation of the resolution passed at the 2017 General Assembly, “A Call for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to Advocate for the Rights of Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation.”

With the Southern Asia office, human trafficking continues to be a large focus of partners in the region along with advocating for the rights of marginalized groups and more resources will be produced for the Southern Asia Initiative launching in 2019.

 

MISSION ENGAGEMENT

Marcy Gansler, Executive
Beth Guy, Director of Communications
Brande Midgett-Crosby, Communications Associate

Caribbean Initiative

The Caribbean Initiative continued in 2018 after being launched at the 2017 General Assembly in Indianapolis, IN. In 2018, five webinars were held with Caribbean partners on subjects such as migration/ human-trafficking, peace, economic justice, and sustainable development. There were approximately 150 live views of webinars and several more who later watched the webinar recordings. Videos sharing Caribbean partners’ perspectives on mission were also created as a way to hear and learn directly from Caribbean partners. A new children’s curriculum, Embrace the Fruits of the Spirit, was promoted as a free VBS and/or Sunday School curriculum. The curriculum was downloaded approximately 270 times and reviews from churches who used the curriculum have been overwhelmingly positive. A seven-day devotional/Bible study written by the Reverend Dr. Oral Thomas, Acting President of the United Theological College of the West Indies, was added as a resource as well.

World Communion Sunday

Global Ministries was pleased to add six new communion stories to the list of World Communion Sunday resources this year. These resources come from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Indonesia, Mexico, and Cuba. In 2018 alone, the World Communion Sunday page on the Global Ministries website received over 9,000 unique page views. Resources for World Communion Sunday continue to be in high demand and developing new materials is a priority for Global Ministries.

Social Media

The Office of Mission Engagement has started the process of strengthening the social media presence of Global Ministries, beginning with the launch of the Global Ministries Instagram page. Through Instagram, Global Ministries is sharing information about programs and projects. There are also “humans of Global Ministries” posts sharing personal stories from leaders of partner organizations, and “where in the world” posts highlighting beautiful images from locations around the world. While still in the early stages of gaining an Instagram audience, Global Ministries already has approximately 170 followers and has about 11 interactions per post on average.

Also, in strengthening the social media strategy, the Mission Engagement Office has started utilizing the social media scheduling software, Hootsuite. This has helped to streamline social media posting and has provided statistical data to ensure that Global Ministries can communicate with the constituency via social media most effectively.

Global Mission Church

The Office of Mission Engagement worked on streamlining the process to become a Global Mission Church. This new process asks congregations to meet five criteria each year to keep or gain the Global Mission Church designation. Through the new process, churches are asked to Pray, Receive, Give, Learn, and Advocate – with specific activities listed for each action. Global Ministries will begin heavily promoting this new, simplified version of the Global Mission Church process in 2019. It is the hope that more churches will begin the Global Mission Church process as it will be easier to implement.

CHILD AND ELDER SPONSORSHIP PROGRAM

Linda Lawrence, Program Manager

The Global Ministries Child and Elder Sponsorship program works collaboratively with fifteen of Global Ministries’ partners. Individuals, local Disciples and UCC churches and organizations commit to providing financial aid to children and elders from Global Ministries partners participating in the program.  Partner sites vary in the number of children and elders they serve and the services that are provided.

In 2019 the program will include its third elder care program. In many countries, individuals do not have social security or retirement benefits.  The program will be partnering with the Dar al-Kalima University College of Arts and Culture’s Ajyal “Generations” Senior Care Program in Bethlehem, Palestine.  A site visit was made in 2018 by the Middle East area executive and the sponsorship program manager.  The word “Ajyal” means generations and is the first program in Bethlehem to provide support to residents over age 60. The program includes spiritual and cultural programs, basic health services, computer classes, a book club, drama group, and choir.  Currently, the Ajyal program is providing services to approximately 100 seniors.

In 2018, we invited the sponsorship coordinator of the Family Village Farm to visit the United States. Mrs. Anita Grace Paul spent a month visiting congregations that have supported children at the Family Village Farm as well as students attending King’s Matriculation School.  Currently, all eligible residents for the sponsorship program are sponsored and more than 100 students of King’s Matriculation School have been able to pay tuition and receive daily hot meals during the school year through sponsorship.

Mrs. Paul’s visit proved to be very helpful. She was positively received by all the local churches she visited.  In 2019, Ms. Betty Murillo, Director of Dumaguete Kalauman Center for Development (Kalauman) in the Philippines will also participate in the Mission Co-worker in Residence Program.   She will visit and share stories with local Disciples and UCC churches that support Kalauman children. Depending on the schedule of her visit she may be present at the General Assembly and General Synod.

Kalauman provides holistic services and programs for children, adults, and the Dumaguete community.  The program was operated on the campus of Silliman University for more than 30 years but was displaced by a university expansion plan. Beginning in 2017 to the present, Global Ministries sponsorship donors and others have contributed to a new building costing approximately $130,000.00.

The Child and Elder Sponsorship Program continues to have a Critical Presence in many areas of the world because of ongoing needs and the support of sponsors. Through this program, children are allowed to be children and elders are provided assistance to live out their lives in dignity and love in their own tradition, faith, and community.

 

RAMBO COMMITTEE
Landa Simmons, President
Rambo Committee, Inc,
1648 River Ridge
Williamsburg, VA 23185-7546

The Rambo Committee’s main priority is assisting in building the capacity of the Christian Hospital in Mungeli to respond to the critical medical needs of the community. During the last 15 years, the hospital has achieved tremendous expansion and growth in terms of infrastructures, equipment and resources. The hospital has experienced challenges in the recent past in terms of leadership, but is now under the capable leadership of Dr. Raj Singh.

 

DISCIPLES AMATEUR RADIO FELLOWSHIP, INC.
John Park Winkler, Jr, President
7201 Astoria Ct., Watuaga, Texas 76148
660.464.2471
Website: www.darfucan.org
Email: johnparkw@gmail.com

The Disciples Amateur Radio Fellowship (DARF) has provided Radio and communications equipment for overseas mission work since Jim Sugioka convened the organizational meeting at the International Convention in St. Louis in 1958.

In 2015, the installation of a fourth generation of HF communications equipment was completed in The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), consisting of 26 solar powered HF Stations. The DARF is reviewing a request from the Disciples community for an additional ten stations.

Over the years, DARF has provided equipment for mission work in Paraguay, the Philippines, Lesotho, DRC, and Guatemala.

DARF continues regular daily and weekly communications among its membership using networks on the 20 and 75-meter amateur radio bands and using Skype. It also occasionally publishes “The Mission-Aire,” reporting on its work and activities.

John Park Winkler, Jr, (W5JPW) President
7201 Astoria Ct, Watauga, TX 76148
(660)464-2471

Dan Owen (W5AHC), Vice President
9004 Bancroft Trail
Austin, TX 78729
(512) 263-7788

John Dale (N0FYE), Treasurer
6110 Leighton Ave
Lincoln, NE 68507
(402) 467-1085

Fred H Erickson, (WD9IXA), Editor, The Mission-aire
3750 Miller Dr. Apt 1414
Columbia, MO 65201
(573) 489-3176

GA-1906

GA-1906

COUNCIL ON CHRISTIAN UNITY

Rev. Paul S. Tché, President

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8I will listen to what God the Lord says;
he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—
but let them not turn to folly.
Surely his salvation is near those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.

10 Love and faithfulness meet together;
righteousness and peace kiss each other. (Psalm 85:8-10, NRSV)

 

Reflection on Today’s Ecumenical and Multifaith Landscape

Early in November, I was invited to be a panel member for the workshop “At the Intersection of Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations,” along with my colleagues from the United States and Canada at the 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Toronto, Canada. Amidst the rapid social and cultural changes in this global religious landscape, Christian communions, churches, denominations, and councils of churches are increasingly exploring what it means to be a Christian, and, more important, what it means to seek Christian unity in this multifaith world. It seems to me that surely, considering today’s religious landscape, it is time for us to take this question seriously!

For almost ten years, I served in Kentucky at various local churches, big and small, urban and small-town. While I was serving as a solo pastor at a historic church in a small town in Kentucky, I had about ten new members who joined my congregation, and interestingly, none of them were from the faith tradition called the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Not a single person! What did my new members look for when they consider joining the church? Simply put, it was who the church members were as a collective body and what they were becoming as a group of Christians.

To live in this post-denominational era, however, does not mean that we need no longer seek Christian unity. Rather, we must sit down together as one body of Christ; then, we must ask what it means to engage, as Christians, with our neighbors of different faiths and how we will work together for the world that God so loves.

The most distinctive feature of Christianity is, in my understanding, its mandate to care for the marginalized and to value every person as we value ourselves: that is, to treat others as humans Created in the image of God. I do not believe that such a minority group as Christians in the early first century would see only those who joined this new faith movement as God’s children. No matter who they encountered, they simply treated one another as if they had seen God in them. Everyone was equally a divine being in the eyes of these newly converted religious “zealots” in the Roman Empire.

Those who were treated as God’s children for the first time in their lives probably wanted to know why these followers of the guy named Jesus—a very common name in Judea at that time—valued and cared for them in such a way that was suspicious and strange. When disciples of Jesus explained how they had been treated by other Christians and how transformative these encounters and new relationships were, people also wanted to join this “Jesus movement.”

Christianity is all about relationship: relationship with God, relationship with neighbors, relationship with power and with oppressors, and relationship with the marginalized and the oppressed. Likewise, the ecumenical movement is all about relationship: relationship among churches, communions, denominations, institutions, parachurch organizations, and Christian movements, and now, most important, relationship with people of other faith traditions.

I believe that our multifaith engagements are all about relationship. The more we meet with our interfaith neighbors, the better we understand each other. The more we understand each other in deep relationships, the more we will speak of each other with high regard. The world will then be transformed, I am certain. Isn’t this what Jesus envisioned as he prayed for the unity of his followers in chapter 17 of the Gospel according to John?

We should not listen to what people in the world—including, of course, many Christians—say about one another. If Christians do not see God in every human being in this world, regardless of their religious or life convictions, God’s glory would not dwell in our land.

When I was given a moment for my last comments at the workshop of the Parliament of the World’s Religion, I finally had to say who I think I am as an ecumenist. I regard myself an “ecumenical Don Quixote.” My biggest challenge now is that I do not have Sancho Panza at my side while charging windmills. I do not know whether I am fighting what I am supposed to fight. No one has told me how I, once again as an ecumenist, could participate in the good fight for the right causes in this rapidly changing religious landscape.

I do not believe that I am alone in this sentiment. As a matter of fact, we, as an ecumenical movement, do not know whether we are fighting for what we are supposed to fight for. Now, God is calling us to listen to a wise Sancho, and I believe that we’d better listen to him well. Who is our “Sancho”? Our interfaith friends!

Now, let me share some highlights of the ministry of the CCU—Christian Unity and Multifaith Relations.

 

Multifaith Endeavors

Last summer, the CCU published a curriculum for a group study, Disciples of Christ in a Multifaith World. In the lesson plan for the first session, Rev. Daniel E. H. Bryant, pastor of First Christian Church, Eugene, Oregon, describes the purpose of this study guide:

This study is not a study of world religions; rather, our goal is to understand why we, in the tradition we call the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), should engage in interfaith relations, how those relations intersect with our Christian witness, and what gifts we as Disciples have to bring to such relationships (page 4).

When we engage in any multifaith activity, we do so as “disciples.” But who do we say we are as a collective body? This study guide will help our congregations reflect on our tradition and the gifts we can offer to other multifaith neighbors as one of our countless Christian traditions.

This study guide was published thanks to the generous support of the Oregon E. Scott Foundation. You can download this study guide with other resources on our ministry website: https://councilonchristianunity.org/

Currently, the CCU is planning another study series in the coming years. The purpose of the next study guide will be to listen to voices from a multifaith world. Basically, we will invite people of other faiths and ask them why they believe it is important to have a relationship with other people of faith. For example, why do Muslims in an Islam-dominant country think it is important to establish and maintain a relationship with and protect their Christian friends who are a minority? In the same way, we will listen to Christians in the land of Islam, Hindu, or Buddhism. We will try to understand the religious and cultural contexts in which a religious minority is living under a dominant religious hegemony. Also, if we go to Latin America, especially, a dominantly Catholic country, we had better listen to Catholics tell us why they value relationships with Protestants and how Protestants feel and live in a Catholic culture.

I am thrilled that the CCU makes this study guide more accessible using new media, such as video clips and multimedia tools, along with a hard-copy study guide. Please note that you can make this project possible by praying or providing intellectual gifts or financial support.

The CCU has also been engaged in various interreligious conversations through the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCCUSA): Jewish–Christian Conversations, Christian–Buddhists Dialogue, Christian–Hindu Dialogue, and Muslim–Christian Dialogue.

I personally continue to work closely in various areas with Rev. Dr. Peniel Jesudason Rufus Rajkumar, Program Executive of the Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation of the World Council of Churches (WCC).

 Central Committee Meeting and 70th Anniversary of the World Council of Churches

The Central Committee of the WCC met in Geneva, Switzerland, in June 2018. One highlight of the meeting was Pope Francis’ visit to the WCC to celebrate this historic ecumenical institution and to urge us to go further as one body of Christ for the sake of Christ and the world. Also, the Ecumenical Patriarch, His All Holiness Bartholomew I, delivered a sermon to the Central Committee members congratulating us on this historical milepost. In 2018, the WCC, with its member communions and partners, offered various opportunities to celebrate the birth of ecumenism and to focus on “envisioning our common future: united in faith, eager for witness, and fearless in the quest for justice and peace” (WCC Brochure, 70 Years of the World Council of Churches: Walking Together, Serving Justice and Peace). You can learn more about this celebration at www.oikoumene.org/wcc70.

One important agenda item for this Central Committee meeting was the location for the 11th General Assembly of the WCC, and Karlsruhe, Germany, was chosen for the 2021 General Assembly. In 2020, the WCC will welcome a new General Secretary as Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit exits.

For me, personally, the highlight of the Central Committee meeting was to sing a hymn and a traditional Korean folksong with the delegates of the Korean Christian Federation of the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea, commonly known as North Korea. Impressively, the four-person delegation included two young female leaders of North Korean churches for the first time since they have been engaged in this ecumenical movement.

In the declination of the Disciples Mission Fund, the Disciples do not contribute to the WCC financially as much as we used to. However, the Division of the Overseas Ministries and the Week of Compassion also supports WCC programs, and I have been serving on the Central Committee on behalf of the Disciples since the retirement of Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins.

Toward a Full Communion Relationship with The United Church of Canada

In July 2018, Rev. Teresa Hord Owens and other representatives of the Disciples in the US and Canada attended and participated in the 43rd General Council of The United Church of Canada, Oshawa, Ontario, where they were introduced and welcomed along with other ecumenical partners. At one morning session, the Council passed the resolution to endorse the full communion relationship with the Disciples. The resolution was passed by 98 percent of the voters.

The Disciples are looking forward to ratifying this relationship in July 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa. Meanwhile, the Disciples and The United Church of Canada are in conversations about the reconciliation of the ordered (or ordained) ministries, local and regional cooperation, and opportunities to celebrate our full communion relationship. This is for the first time since 1989 that the Disciples has entered into full communion with the United Church of Christ.

I was deeply impressed by the efforts of our United sisters and brothers to respect and preserve indigenous groups and culture in Canada. They officially apologized to the indigenous people, especially for the boarding schools that the United Church opened to assimilate indigenous children into Western culture and languages, which has been regarded as “cultural genocide.” They have acknowledged their sin and faults toward the First Nation people, and now they are working together to promote the rights of indigenous people.

Christian Churches Together in the USA

The Christian Churches Together in the USA had its annual convocation in October 2018 in Wichita, Kansas, under the theme of “Let’s Talk About Life.” At the gathering, participants discussed the document “Unity Statement on Poverty and Racism.” You can read a full report from Rev. Carlos Malavé, director, as well as the statement, at http://christianchurchestogether.org/cct-annual-convocation-2018/.

 National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA

The annual Christian Unity Gathering (CUG) and the Governing Board meeting of the National Council of Churches took place in the US in November 2018 in College Park, Maryland. These events were dedicated to searching for the next steps in the NCC’s main campaign, “A.C.T. to End Racism.” Our own Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins now serves as a staff member for this initiative.

With the theme “A.C.T. Now to End Racism: Hard Truths in Beloved Community,” Rev. Dr. David Anderson Booker led the plenary sessions focusing on anti-racism. He pointed out that, to end racism, its costs would include 1) institutional structure; 2) theology; 3) personal privilege, power, prestige, and identity; and 4) financial commitments. He also pointed out that the church is not yet willing to pay these costs.

Two Disciples seminarians from the Claremont School of Theology, Eula Nicola Pagdilao, and Taulau Tupua, were present for the seminarian program at the CUG, and other Disciples attended these events.

The four Convening Tables also met during the CUG and discussed whether this new structure of the NCC is suitable for the tasks that the Convening Tables have undertaken in replacing commissions. The Governing Board had an opportunity to hear what was discussed during the CUG and reflected upon the mission and the stewardship of the institution.

Canadian Council of Churches

I was invited to be a presenter at the Canadian Forum on Inter-Church Dialogues of the Canadian Council of Churches. Along with Canadian colleagues Rev. Dr. André Lavergne of the Lutheran Church in Canada, Dr. Gail Allan of the United Church, and Rev. Canon Dr. Scott Sharman of the Canadian Anglican Church, I shared what it means to be in full communion with one another and its challenges and promises.

Ministries of the Disciples Ecumenical Consultative Council [DECC] (i.e., Disciples of Christ World Communion)

The meaningful mile marker for the DECC was that it concluded the fifth phase of the International Dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church in June 2018 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The current phase began in 2013 on the theme, “Christians Formed and Transformed by the Eucharist.” At this point, each communion is carefully reviewing the final report of the fifth phase. I anticipate that the report will be published in early 2019. You can learn more about the history of the International Dialogue between the Disciples and the Roman Catholic Church here: https://councilonchristianunity.org/disciples-roman-catholic-dialogue/

As General Secretary of the DECC, I attended the Executive Committee meeting of the World Communion of the Reformed Church (WCRC) in May 2018 in Seoul, South Korea. The DECC urged the Executive members of the WCRC to find ways to strengthen the relationship between the WCRC and the DECC, two world communion bodies, in mission and ministries as they presented the new organizational strategy.

The journey toward becoming a world communion as a global body continues. The first step has been to change the name to the Disciples of Christ World Communion (DCWC) because the name DECC is no longer relevant to its own members and the ecumenical community. In relation to the World Convention of Churches of Christ (WCCC), the DECC represents only national bodies of the Disciples Churches and the United Churches into which the Disciples merged, while the WCCC represents individuals, local churches, and global partners of the Stone Campbell movement. The evangelical and missional zeal of the Puerto Rican Disciples and other member churches in the Global South have expanded the global presence of the Disciples, and these newly established national churches are firmly rooted in their identity as Disciples of Christ—not as the Stone-Campbell tradition. As historical Disciples churches struggle with membership and finance challenges, those churches are vibrant and evangelical. It is my strong conviction that the Disciples of Christ, as a world communion—that is, a distinctive global Protestant tradition—will together fulfill God’s calling for us in this world: praying for, promoting, and bringing unity to Christians.

I have contacted our current members about this change. With the exception of one member communion, most churches have welcomed this direction. I also visited and contacted new potential member communions, and so far, the Disciples of Christ in Colombia and the United Church of the Philippines have expressed their intention to join the DECC.

Becoming a Just, Peacemaking Church

The CCU—Christian Unity and Multifaith Relations of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) remains to urge our churches to be engaged in actions for peace that entail justice. With ecumenical partners, the CCU and the DECC work with the Ecumenical Forum for Peace, Reunification, and Development Cooperation on the Korean Peninsula and the Taiwan Ecumenical Forum for Justice and Peace.

The Ecumenical Forum for Korea had a meeting in Geneva last June 2018; and, as I shared above, the KCF of North Korea fully participated in the meeting.

I was also invited to the Roundtable for Peace on the Korean Peninsula, organized by the Korean Methodist Church, World Methodist Council, and the United Methodist Church in November 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. Mr. Jimmy Carter, former US President, and Rev. Dr. James Laney, former US Ambassador to South Korea, welcomed participants to the Jimmy Carter Center and shared their insights on the Korean Peninsula. The NCC Korea, the NCC Japan, the WCC, the NCCCUSA, and the WCRC also participated in this event.

As a Korean American, I have fully endeavored to bring our ecumenical efforts together for peace in northeast Asia. Japan is about to pass the amendment to the so-called Peace Constitution, which will allow Japan to engage fully in military actions and warfare. Taiwan is caught in a struggle between two global superpowers, the US and China. North Koreans are dying of hunger mostly because of economic sanctions imposed by the UN. Many traces of colonialism remain in Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines. Indigenous peoples in Taiwan and the Philippines are struggling to be heard and recognized And, as you can imagine, many issues require ecumenical responses in Northeast Asia. I believe this is time for the ecumenical community to act together to bring peace to this region. And my role is to point out the intersectionality of these regional issues—how they affect one another.

Let me conclude my report by reminding us of our calling: Christ urges us to live life in unity not for ourselves but for the world that God so loved that God gave Her only begotten son!

 

GA-1922

GA-1922

RESOLUTION ON FULL COMMUNION BETWEEN THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA AND THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH (DISCIPLES OF CHRIST) IN THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA

(Operational, Policy and Organizational)

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WHEREAS, Jesus prayed in his last prayer with the disciples, “that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:21, NRSV); and

WHEREAS, the desire for the visible unity of God’s one church is at the heart and commitment of the ecumenical movement, and the essence of the ecumenical movement is to seek to find unity in diversity, creating the space to engage divergences and convergences through ongoing dialogue and engagement; and

WHEREAS, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada and The United Church of Canada affirm this biblical understanding of unity that continues to guide ecumenical commitment and engagement with other churches; and

WHEREAS, the two communions in North America envision full communion as a mutual commitment to grow together toward a vision of the church that enriches our theological traditions, enhances service and mission and deepens worship, and the two churches pledge to find diverse expressions of what it means to live in full communion in Christ as we experience life together; and

WHEREAS, the two churches understand that unity and mission are inseparable, which is understood that Christ calls us to unite in one mission in and to a suffering and divided world, and the two communions acknowledge that we are partners together in God’s mission to and for the whole world;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada, meeting in Des Moines, Iowa (July 20-24, 2019) makes the following mutual declaration with the 43rd General Council of The United Church of Canada, meeting in Oshawa, Ontario (July 21-27, 2018):

  1. The General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada acknowledges and celebrates before God that The United Church of Canada is an authentic, faithful part of the one, universal body of
  2. The General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada commits itself to work, with God’s help and together with its partner churches, to effect greater unity in the whole church of Jesus
  3. The General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada declares and celebrates that a relationship of full communion now exists between The United Church of Canada and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada, by which is meant that both churches will pursue with intention ways of expressing the unity of the Church. This includes commitment to mutually recognizing ordained ministers of each partner church as truly ministers of word and sacrament, and ways of manifesting the common mission of witness and service; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada, together with The United Church of Canada, encourages study of the biblical, theological, and practical implications of the full communion agreement; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada authorizes the Ecumenical Partnership Committee to give guidance to this process; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada agrees to commence the full communion agreement with the signing of the common agreement by the two Heads of Communion at a joint service of celebration that will include opportunities for people across the two churches to celebrate in meaningful ways; and

FINALLY, BE IT RESOLVED that the 2019 General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada receives the final report of the planning group, including the possibilities presented for common life and witness together, which is attached to this resolution.

Council on Christian Unity (A Disciples Ministry for Christian Unity and Interfaith Relations)

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 The General Board recommends that the General Assembly ADOPT GA-1922. (Discussion Time: 12 minutes)

Full Communion:

Ecumenical Partnership between the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada and The United Church of Canada

Introduction

In 2016, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada and The United Church of Canada identified an interest in exploring greater fellowship and potentially a closer relationship between our two denominational bodies. Preliminary conversations suggested there were distinct benefits in greater partnership, not only on the Canadian side of the border, but in our two nations.

In December 2016, a formal meeting of leaders in both denominations took place in Toronto, Canada. Over the course of two days, both sides decided that working towards a full communion relationship is desired. There are, of course, many local, regional, and international implications of such an arrangement, but the leaders determined that this provided an ideal opportunity to bear witness to the importance and power of Christian unity in North America and to strengthen the ministry of both of our denominations. Each denomination named six representatives to explore further the issues involved and prepare a proposal for a full communion agreement. The group met twice in person and in video conferences. This report offers their reflections on issues and implications relating to full communion, as background to the proposal that the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada, and The United Church of Canada undertake a full communion agreement.

Although many Disciples in the United States may not know The United Church of Canada well, the Canadian Region and the United Church have a long-standing history together. Our relationship spans from local congregational partnerships where United and Disciples have presence together in various towns and cities, to educational (a cooperative agreement with Emmanuel College in Toronto from 1930s-60s), to ecumenical (both founding members of the Canadian Council of Churches), to an unsuccessful union talk which took place between 1969-1985. A lasting and blessed product of those conversations and cooperation are two joint United-Disciples  congregations—one in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and one in Calgary, Alberta. In addition, many Canadian Disciples clergy are still educated at United Church seminaries, and some Disciples clergy now serve in United Church congregations and in general church leadership. Theologically, we both have a passion for justice and mission and hold similar “statements of faith.” There are significant differences in governance and the administration of the sacraments, but the Planning Group has discerned that these are not barriers to a full communion relationship.

The United Church of Canada reached a full communion agreement with the United Church of Christ (USA) in October 2015. The relationship between these churches is encouraging a closer relationship between Global Ministries, including the Division of Overseas Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada and the Church in Mission unit of The United Church of Canada. An agreement between the United Church and the Disciples of Christ would “close the triangle” and mark a new era of ecumenical partnership in North America.

The two denominations have understood a full communion partnership as a living and growing relationship. This partnership doesn’t simply mean that we accept one another. Rather, we embrace each other fully in the witness of Christians, the ministries of the Church, and the mission of God. In this covenantal relationship, we commit to being one Church, not in merger but in God’s gift of unity, that serves the world that God so loves. The two churches will learn how to live in this covenantal relationship through rich theological conversations, enhanced witness and mission, and diverse spiritual life and worship.

The gospel of Jesus Christ calls on the followers of Christ to live life in unity for the sake of the world, so “that the world may believe….” (John 17:21) The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada and The United Church of Canada have been committed to the visible unity of the church and one ecumenical movement for decades. As the two denominations enter this closer relationship to participate fully in God’s mission for this world, may God lead this journey with divine wisdom and in grace.

Brief History of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada traces its beginnings to the early national period in the United States of America. Disciples point to the work of four founders to describe their origins. All four men had ties to the Presbyterian Church. Barton Stone (1772-1844), the only one born in America, served as the sponsoring pastor for the Cane Ridge revival, drawing 10-30,000 attendees during the Second Great Awakening. The camp meeting revivals brought controversy. Stone withdrew from Presbyterianism and, with others, formed a loose association of congregations resolving “to sink into union with the body of Christ at large.” These congregations took the name Christian and gained strength in North Carolina, Southern Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio.

Thomas Campbell (1763-1854) and his son, Alexander (1788-1866), were Scotch-Irish Presbyterians who arrived in the United States in 1807 and 1809 respectively. In 1808, Thomas withdrew from the Presbyterian Church in Pennsylvania when he was rebuked for serving the Lord’s Supper to Christians not associated with his brand of Presbyterianism. A year later, he formed the Christian Association of Washington, Pennsylvania. Shortly after this event, his family arrived. Alexander, 21 years old, quickly became a leading figure. Members of the Christian Association adopted the name Disciples. By 1830, with the help of evangelist Walter Scott (1796-1861), who had arrived from Scotland in 1818, the movement grew rapidly and formed congregations in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia.

The earliest Disciples congregations included African Americans as members, though Disciples also included members who participated in the enslavement of others. Disciples were able to hold the church together during the Civil War. Yet, when the Churches of Christ (Non-Instrumental) separated from Disciples in 1906 by arguing that Disciples had become a denomination through the creation of national missionary organizations, the majority of those associated with the schism were located in the South. Black Disciples formed a separate, but cooperating, organizational life in 1917 known as the National Christian Missionary Convention. During 1969, as part of the formal restructuring of the Disciples life, a merger was enacted that brought the National Christian Missionary Convention into the newly established Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The resulting National Convocation continues to meet to discuss special concerns affecting African- American Disciples.

In 1812, Alexander Campbell affirmed believers’ baptism by immersion as the proper Christian baptism. This led to a brief (1815-1830) affiliation with Baptists. Disciples disrupted Baptist life by seeking reform and urged Baptists to eschew denominational names in order to unite around the simplicity of the apostolic faith, illustrated by the Disciples commitment to ‘no creed but Christ.’

The first signs of these Disciples-like commitments in Canada appeared in the Maritime Provinces (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island) by 1810 in the form of mostly Scotch Baptist connections. Most of these early leaders (John R. Stewart, Alexander Crawford, James Murray, and John Stevenson) had some connection to Scotland. By the 1820s, an American, William W. Ashley, married a Canadian and carried Alexander Campbell’s writings to Halifax. During the 1830s, a number of the Scotch Baptist congregations established connections to the Disciples congregation in Halifax. By the 1850s, a more formal association of Disciples congregations emerged in the Maritimes. The first Disciples congregation in Ontario appeared at Cobourg in 1836. By 1943, some twenty-four congregations in Ontario were associated with Disciples. It took a number of decades before Disciples life appeared further west in Canada, in the area of the Prairies.

During the 1820s, Campbell’s Disciples and Stone’s Christians discovered one another. By 1832, they had worked out a formal union that combined about 22,000 members. This union left a legacy of two names. Present-day congregations are known as ‘Christian’ churches, while their members are called ‘Disciples.’ In 1968, the denomination adopted its current name, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

In the United States and Canada, Disciples membership stands at around 455,000 (around 274,000 participating members) divided into some 3300 congregations. Around 10% of Disciples members are African-Americans, with much smaller percentages of Hispanics and various Pacific Asian Disciples. The states of Texas, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, and Ohio contain about one-third of all North American Disciples. In addition, the church’s Common Global Ministries Board (with the United Church of Christ) oversees work among some 2.7 million indigenous Christians across the world who call themselves Disciples.

Early Disciples hoped to unify the church by restoring the faith and practices of the earliest congregations described in the Bible. For this reason, their worship included the weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper, open to all who professed Christ. Contemporary Disciples continue this practice. Their early commitment to believers’ baptism also continues, though contemporary congregations welcome infant-baptized persons into church membership without rebaptism. Essentially, early Disciples members expressed their commitment to four principles:

  • the Interpretation Principle represented their commitment to the Bible, primarily for its testimony about Christ, who, as revelation of God, has always represented the ultimate authority for Christian life. Disciples affirmed the role of interpretation in reading the Bible, as public process, informed by the ideas and understanding of the whole of Christianity;
  • the Restoration Principle emphasized the purity and simplicity of earliest Christianity as guide. Today, Disciples recognize apostolic Christianity possessed far more diversity than earlier Disciples understood, and this principle currently underlines the task of the ecumenical church to understand together the voice of God in the midst of the human voices that surround them;
  • the Ecumenical Principle stressed their longstanding commitment to church unity; and
  • the Eschatological Principle pointed to their confidence that God is at work in human history and their belief the church appropriately responds by working toward the realization of the kind of justice that is promised when the reign of God is

Disciples ordained women to ministry as early as the late 1880s. During the late 19th century, leaders among Disciples embraced the scientific spirit that swept American Protestantism after 1870. They fashioned a critical approach to the Bible open to the newest developments in scientific understanding and human knowledge. As Disciples shared this budding “liberal” vision, they began to doubt that any group of Christians, even the ancient Christians, could truly capture the divine message in its entirety. This realization strengthened their historic commitment to ecumenism.

Disciples are perhaps best known for their deep yearning for Christian unity. Disciples often quoted John 17:21, “that they may all be one . . . so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” Both the United States and Canadian Churches are founding members of the World Council of Churches (1948). Canadians were founding members in the Canadian Council of Churches (1944), and the Disciples in the United States were founding members of both the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ (1910) and the National Council of Churches (1950). Disciples have served key leadership roles in all these organizations. In the late 1980s, Disciples and the United Church of Christ formed an ecumenical partnership. Together, they have helped to shape Churches Uniting in Christ (CUIC), the partnership of nine denominations that grew out of the Consultation of Church Union (COCU).

Today, Disciples sponsor seventeen colleges and universities and four theological seminaries. Each of these schools is diverse, with the vast numbers of students coming from religious affiliations other than Disciples. They also maintain support for three ‘foundation’ houses located at the University of Chicago, Vanderbilt University, and in Claremont, California. These houses support Disciples masters and doctoral students in non-Disciples institutions.

Brief History of The United Church of Canada

The United Church of Canada came into existence as a denomination in 1925, through a union of the Methodist Church, Canada, the Congregationalist Churches, and about two- thirds of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. These three denominations were joined by a number of local union churches or congregations that had formed, particularly in Saskatchewan, in expectation of such a union.

The driving forces for church union were largely practical, not theological. Chief among them was the challenge of finding the resources, both of finances and personnel, to serve a Canadian population growing rapidly in the early twentieth century, especially on the Prairies, as a result of heavy immigration.

Another key motivation was the conviction that a united Christian Church could help produce a “Christian Canada.” The primary supporters of church union in all three denominations would have described themselves as liberal evangelicals; they held a strong attachment to both evangelism and social service. It is not accidental that these three denominations were key players in the Moral and Social Reform Council, founded in 1908, and its successor body, the Social Service Council of Canada (1912). Advocates of church union saw a “united church” as a stronger force to tackle social ills in early twentieth century Canada. These advocates were heavily represented among moderate Social Gospellers, but church union had significant support in both the radical and the conservative wings of that movement.

Practical motivations notwithstanding, these uniting denominations also shared a conviction that the lack of unity in Christianity was a scandal needing to be overcome.

They saw church union as a step in that direction. John 17:21, “that they may all be one,” served as a guiding scriptural text and underlying theological rationale for this enterprise.

While most Methodists and Congregationalists entered the new United Church, church union proved sharply divisive among Canada’s Presbyterians. Noticeable opposition in the Presbyterian Church was present from shortly after church union talks began in 1904. It grew in strength and intensity after the completion of a draft Basis of Union in 1908. In 1925 about two-thirds of the Presbyterian membership and about seventy percent of its clergy came into the United Church, those not entering remaining as a continuing Presbyterian Church in Canada.

Two things marked the period from 1925 to 1939. The initial years saw a consolidation of the church union process as the denomination put together new pastoral charges, worked out governance details, and produced both a hymnal and a service book. The Great Depression also dominated these years. The United Church had many congregations in the southern Prairies, an area buffeted doubly by low commodity prices and severe drought.

The two decades after World War II saw immense growth for the United Church by almost every statistical measurement, e.g., candidates for ministry, the formation of new congregations, church membership, Sunday School enrolment. The mid-1960s to the present has seen a gradual but steady moving away from participation in organized religion in Canada; indeed, Canada could now be rightly described as an increasingly secularized society. The United Church has, along with many other mainline denominations, seen a steady decline since the late 1960s in all those statistical measuring points where it had seen growth in the immediate post-World War II era.

The 1970s saw the first wave of what would be a dramatic increase in the number of women being ordained. While the United Church approved the ordination of women in 1936, relatively few women were ordained prior to the early 1970s. In 1988, the United Church declared, after bitter debate across the denomination, that no impediment existed to the ordination or commissioning of self-declared gays and lesbians.

Similar to other Canadian denominations that operated residential schools for Canada’s Indigenous population, the United Church has apologized to that Indigenous population for its role in the residential schools and also for its participation in efforts to destroy Indigenous cultures, a goal of both the missionary efforts among Canada’s Indigenous population and the residential schools. As part of its commitment to reconciliation, including with its own Indigenous membership, in 2012 the United Church added the words “All My Relations” (in Mohawk) to the United Church crest. This action, and the apologies by the United Church, stand within a broader effort by Canadian governments and Canadian society to engage in a reconciliation process with Canada’s Indigenous peoples.

From its beginning, the United Church has committed itself to ecumenism, declaring in the 1930s that it saw itself as a united and a uniting church. The 1960s probably represent the high point of the United Church’s lived commitment to ecumenism. In 1968, a significant portion of the Evangelical United Brethren denomination in Canada joined with the United Church at the same time as its American counterpart joined the Methodist Church in the United States. Discussions toward church union with the Anglican Church of Canada began in 1943. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) joined those talks in 1969. The Anglicans withdrew from the conversation in 1975. Conversations between the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada and The United Church of Canada continued until 1985 but ended without reaching the hoped-for goal. In recent years the United Church entered into a full communion agreement with the United Church of Christ and mutual recognition of ministry agreements with several other denominations.

The report of a “Commission on World Mission” to the twenty second General Council (1966) signaled a significant re-thinking of the United Church’s approach to world mission and to its understanding of Christianity’s relationship to other world religions. Among other things, the Commission recommended that “[t]he church should recognize that God is creatively and redemptively at work in the religious life of all [hu]mankind.” That re- thinking led to a new emphasis on interfaith relations and subsequent reports, beginning in 1997, on United Church relationships with Judaism, Islam, Indigenous Spiritualties, and Hinduism.

Context: Why Now?

The context to which we bring this conversation of full communion is one of an increasingly diverse society, rural depopulation, expanding secularism, and in the case of The United Church of Canada, an incredible amount of denominational change. As with a full communion agreement, this is not a backdoor to the union; it is an attempt to find common ground in which to plant seeds for God’s mission and ministry.

Because the Disciples of Christ has an existing presence in Canada, it is important that both denominations are clear that this is a partnership not an amalgamation. We must show that together we are stronger and able to continue the work of Christ’s church in our varied communities while maintaining our own unique identities.

Specifically, in the Canadian context, our two denominations share a common land and social context. We may even think that we are the only progressive voice in our communities. A full communion agreement can benefit both denominations in supporting one another, possibly sharing resources at all levels of the church, giving congregations permission to reach out to one another on common issues or projects when in the past our differences might have kept us apart.

Although both denominations are distinct entities within the one body of Christ, we recognize a number of commonalities that encourage us to pursue greater collaboration and partnership:

  • Our ministries are rooted in the gospel imperative to work for justice, personally but more importantly systemically;
  • Mission is at the heart of who we are as Christ’s church. We are aware of the centrality of mission to our identity both globally and We are likewise critically cognizant of the damaging impact of colonialism on our shared involvement in the world, and therefore a renewed emphasis and intentionality to live and interact differently with our global partners. We also repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery;
  • We are both engaging diverse heritages and changing overall contexts and are challenged by the question “how do we speak and move with integrity in this new landscape?”;
  • Mission and partnership are part of the important, reconciling interfaith work in which we are both actively engaged. We recognize that we live within a landscape of religious pluralism and that as Christians, we are not the center of the universe. We share a common cause in the desire to live into the equity of all faiths and find ways to partner across the spectrum for the greater good;
  • God is working in ways that have humbled both denominations and have called us to seek greater collaboration across the body of Christ, living into the call to be one body, and to seek unity not uniformity;
  • In the local context we are already working together: we share two joint United Church-Disciples of Christ pastorates (Campbell-Stone United, Calgary, and Broadway Disciples United, Winnipeg); in many rural and urban settings where the Disciples of Christ and the United Church exist within close proximity our congregations have been working together in public witness and service for decades;
  • We face similar challenges and strategies which include but are not limited to: the challenge of generational splits; the challenge/opportunity of new technology and communication patterns; the opportunity of engaging immigrant and marginalized communities, recognizing the diversity of the gifts they bring into the body of Christ;
  • We are both in full communion relationships with the United Church of Christ in the USA;
  • We share global partners through Global Ministries and Church in Mission;
  • We have gifts to share with respect to the justice work we have done independently of one another: the Disciples of Christ with respect to anti-racism/pro-reconciliation in the life of the church, and the United Church with respect to full inclusion and celebration of LGBTQ+ in the life of the church; and
  • We recognize that being Christian today is counter-cultural, and that there are abundant blessings and challenges as we engage the rich diversity of belief, worship, theology, and Christology exhibited in different generations and cultures. We are committed to being open to the movement of the Spirit as we work to greater inclusivity, acceptance, and

Many of our congregations are in a rural context where they are the only Protestant denomination in the community. Those of other denominations may or may not feel welcome or comfortable. The more we can identify our commonalities, the greater the chance that those who feel isolated in their faith may cross the threshold and find a supportive Disciples or United Church community.

The Bigger Picture: Why “Now” is Exactly the Right Time for These Talks The immediate context out of which we have emerged, namely, the “modern” period, worked under a different set of principles and realities than those we are embedded in today. A time of building and reinforcing institutions and ideologies within a technological framework vastly different from today, the recent past celebrated the triumphalism of Christianity in identity silos which provided little opportunity to truly engage in the partnership models we explore today. We mistakenly believed that we were all successful doing our own things in our own denominations and whatever unions we dreamt of and pursued were perceived to be about compromise and competition rather than collaboration, assimilation rather than mutuality and celebration of difference. We, perhaps, were unable to conceive of this kind of partnership in our recent past.

The future for the church in North America is uncertain at best and bleak at worst, as our nations appear to continue on the journey of public secularization. At its bleakest, many denominations will merge with great compromise, hurt, loss, and some measure of humiliation until there are only a handful with the resources to continue to function. At its best, the continued persistence of denominations is called into question as more and more post-modern thinking Christians question their validity in light of the call to Christian unity. The continued erosion of denominations leads to a weakened universal church in North America with few able to muster the energy and resources to effect significant transformation in the public sphere, focusing instead, on survival or at least how to have dignity in death. To wait until some undecided point in the future to have these courageous conversations, may indeed, be too late.

The context we must embrace at this point in our shared life together is that the church is not ours but belongs to the Divine who uses as much of it as has heart and openness to be so used. As such, we are stewards of the resources—human, infrastructure, wealth, creativity, compassion—that have been entrusted to our care. In this age of lightning-fast technological change, communications that we could not have dreamed of 20 years ago, and seemingly limitless information at our fingertips 24/7, we have an unprecedented opportunity to be leaders in the restoration of Christian unity to the heart of the church and in the minds and hearts of the children of God under our care. We do so not for our own survival, but so that the gospel of Jesus Christ might be lived out anew, impacting and transforming communities and lives in ways we could not have accomplished in the past. We have always been called to be one body; now is the time to believe it and live it.

To answer the question, “why now?” we ask, “if not now, when?” Our young adults and mature adults are already exploring options to be church differently in this post-modern age. Many of the systems that served us well in the past are in the process of becoming obsolete and something new must take their place. The demands of ministry and mission in the world are infinitely more complex while financial and other resources are reduced.

Why would we wait any longer to embrace the call to be partners, joined together more intentionally to accomplish the task of being the hands and feet of Jesus in the world?

Full Communion

What does an ecumenical partnership or “full communion” mean? These terms do not define a merger between different denominations. An ecumenical partnership emphasizes more a style of pragmatic unity in terms of witness, service, fellowship, worship, and the proclamation of a common faith. Both the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the UNITED STATES and Canada and The United Church of Canada each currently have a full communion agreement with the United Church of Christ. These ecumenical partnerships or “full communion agreements” generally rest on five pillars of acceptance and cooperation. Each of these pillars is rooted in scripture and based upon theological understandings reached and explored by both COCU Consensus: In Quest of a Church of Christ Uniting (1984) and the Baptism, Eucharist, Ministry document (1982).

The Five Pillars of Full Communion
  • “Common Confession of Christ.” This pillar is built upon the common faith shared by both churches, that God is in Christ, reconciling the world to God’s self, and is the One in whom “we live and move and have our being.” (2 Cor. 5:19; Acts 17:28) In an ecumenical partnership, both churches covenant to be mutually accountable in their witness to Christ in the world
  • “Mutual Recognition of Members.” Both churches believe that we have much to learn from the expressions of faith found in other Christian communities. In this second affirmation of full communion, both the United Church and the Disciples of Christ recognize and affirm one another’s baptisms, and also affirm the members of one another’s churches. In full communion, both churches would agree to the “transfer of membership” between their local congregations “by letter.” Neither church would give up its own approaches to the practice of baptism or church membership. Instead, their commitment to one another represents a desire to express their commitment to the fact that any differences in practices in this area should not divide them as
  • “Common Celebration of the Lord’s Supper/Holy Communion.” Since these churches confess Christ in common, and since they recognize one another’s baptism and accept one another’s members in each other’s congregations, it naturally follows that they should encourage congregations to cross borders where they might be geographically close to one another and to share worship and communion together. Both churches celebrate an open table, open to all who are connected to Christ, and both recognize the table calls us into community and toward a commitment to justice for all God’s
  • “Mutual Recognition and Reconciliation of Ordered Ministers.” In full communion, the two churches would affirm one another’s ordered ministries as belonging to the one ministry of Jesus Christ. Such ministers in one church will be recognized as ministers in the other church. Each may serve, when invited, as minister to the other. Though ministerial credentials are immediately recognized, each minister will need to go through the standard processes established by each denomination to gain official “standing” within the denomination.
  • “Common Commitment to Mission.” This fifth pillar of full communion between our two churches recognizes that mission is not an option for the church; rather it, like unity, is part of its very essence. When churches are not engaged in mission, they cease to exist as a church. As our two denominations enter into full communion, we will explore ways of supporting each other in God’s mission in our own countries and around the
The Local Congregation as the Incarnation of Full Communion

One of the great gifts of the Christian faith is the knowledge that God became one of us. The incarnation is a demonstration that God cares for us enough to be one of us. Another insight given to the Christian faith is that the church is the Body of Christ, and as such is another manifestation of the incarnation.

Within The United Church of Canada and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada, full communion is an important aspect of our witness to the world about God’s desire for us to “be one, so that the world might believe.” (John 17) However, there is a tendency within the ethos of the church to think of full communion as something “out there” or “up there,” rather than being an action with local currency. In other words, one might say that full communion needs an incarnation of sorts to bring what might seem to be an ethereal concept into a living, breathing reality.

This concept will become real when congregations actually embody full communion. Both communions have within their local worship a faith-filled recitation of the elements of their faith in the proclamation of shared truth. A New Creed of The United Church of Canada begins with the words “We are not alone, we live in God’s world.” These words tend to bring the transcendent quality of God’s existence into the physical everyday world in which our people live. However, these same words might also have a reference to our sisters and brothers the planet over, and a particular reference to those denominations with whom we share a close walk of faith through ecumenical bonds. As the Preamble to the Design of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) puts it “we enter into newness of life and are made one with the whole people of God.”

In order to help incarnate the oneness of the church, we recommend that congregations be invited to consider the practice of reciting the statement of faith from their own denomination alongside the statement of faith of those other communions with whom they share a formal ecumenical relationship. The worshipping life of Broadway Disciples United Church (a shared ministry in Winnipeg) was enriched by rotating our statements of faith along with the historic Nicene-Chalcedonian Creed and the Apostles’ Creed. This would not be limited to The United Church of Canada and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada, but would include statements of faith from other communions with whom they share this ministry, such as the United Church of Christ (USA), the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, and the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea. It might also be possible to develop membership/confirmation materials based upon these shared affirmations of faith to learn more about what we share and to value how God has made us unique. Neighbouring congregations could develop studies for Lent or Advent exploring our respective and historic creeds. This would be a major and noticeable move within the life of local congregations to show that something new is happening within the life of the church. As Isaiah 43:19 reports God’s intention, “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

It is important to note that both the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada and The United Church of Canada extend an open invitation to the Lord’s Supper. “All are welcome” is a common ground in which the Disciples of Christ and the United Church endeavor to mirror God’s invitation to a ministry of healing and wholeness to the world. Both denominations affirm an open table where we come together in unity with our Christian brothers and sisters to remember Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and that he will come again. For Disciples, a weekly tradition of sharing the Table is part of their Christian nurture, and it might be commended to sisters and brothers within the United Church. United Church congregations are invited to remember the affirmation made by The United Church of Canada following the adoption of Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (Faith and Order Paper no. 111, World Council of Churches, 1982) in the wider church, in which the United Church urged an exploration of the move towards a weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Whether a weekly part of Christian nurture or “[a] taste [of the] mystery of God’s great love for us” to be enjoyed on special occasions, in the words of A Song of Faith, “the open table speaks of the shining promise of barriers broken and creation healed.”

Our two denominations also differ in their usual practice of baptism. To bring these varying perspectives within the life of the local congregations, one might teach the gifts of “infant” baptism and “believer’s” baptism again, as part of membership/confirmation classes—to place these perspectives within the setting of the ecumenical Church and help us come to a deeper understanding of God’s grace and love.

While we share much in common, our differences can offer one another new perspectives. One of the gifts of The United Church of Canada has been its placement within one country with a localized and incarnational sense of mission and ministry. One of the gifts of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada is that because it is not rooted in only one country, it has some sense of its allegiance to the whole world.

Our existing shared ministries, Campbell-Stone United Church (Calgary) and Broadway Disciples United Church (Winnipeg), are invited to tell their stories, including the gifts and challenges of worshiping and serving together, to help others imagine ways for our partnership to become a living, breathing reality.

Where congregations of our two denominations are close geographically, we encourage shared worship or pulpit exchanges and shared mission projects such as refugee sponsorship or shared studies. Including one another in correspondence about special events and regular programs and activities will help relationships develop and open possibilities to imagine new ways to be the church together. Where congregations are at a distance geographically or in different countries, a relationship could develop through social media, exchanges between groups from congregations and longer exchanges between clergy. As the United Church moves to clusters and networks, neighboring Disciples congregations could be invited to be a part of clusters and Disciples and the United Church of Christ (USA) congregations could be included in networks where there are shared passions for mission and ministry.

It is our belief that without some local incarnation of full communion with methods such as those outlined above, and others, as discovered within the life of our shared faith, that our ecumenical partnership will be wanting in the crucial life-lived of our local congregations.

During Vatican II there was the talk of aggiornamento – a new, refreshing wind of the spirit blowing through the life of the church. This putting a word to the name for renewal helped the church grasp what was being attempted. Perhaps for The United Church of Canada and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada, we might adopt the Western Canadian notion of the Chinook wind as blowing warmth within our lives as people of faith.

National, Bi-national, and International Possibilities for Partnership

Our two churches have long understood engagement in God’s mission in the world to be a primary responsibility of our ministries. In its framework document Mending the World, the United Church affirms that “the churches are called to make common cause with individuals and institutions of good will who are committed to compassion, peace, and justice in the world…. God, who loves this world, works for its mending, and calls the church to make this work its first priority.” Thus, the church has committed itself to a vision of ecumenism that is world-centered, understood as “whole world ecumenism,” calling us to work in partnership with all who seek the health and well-being of the whole creation.

Similarly, the Disciples of Christ have stated in The Church for Disciples of Christ: Seeking to be Truly Church Today that “[t]he church exists for the sake of praising God and participating in God’s mission in and for all the world.” The Disciples of Christ also affirm that it is the world that God so loves and in which the church finds its purpose and mission to exist as a faith community. The Disciples clearly understand that God has given unity as God’s gift to all followers of Christ, and in unity, Christians must work together to bring just peace to the world.

Both denominations have strong national and international program work and relationships that may be enhanced through full communion. This includes some global partnership work in which both churches are already involved, such as membership in the World Council of Churches (WCC), the World Communion of the Reformed Churches (WCRC), and the Global Christian Forum (GFC), and global partners who relate to both the Global Ministries, which belongs to the Disciples of Christ and the United Church of Christ (USA), and the Church in Mission unit of The United Church of Canada. In this area many possibilities exist for further cooperation, and where some joint work is already underway. Staff members of Global Ministries and Church in Mission have met to share their work and review avenues for increased collaboration. These avenues also include particular global issues where we may support each other in our education and advocacy, such as peace and justice in the Middle East, North and South Korea, and Colombia.

Another area where collaboration with both national and international dimensions may be possible is a response to the challenges of migration, immigration, and refugee issues. The Migrant Church Task Group of the United Church is addressing the ways that migration is re-shaping the church. It is endeavoring to develop structures and processes that will enable the church to be more welcoming and supportive of people migrating to Canada. The Church in Mission unit includes staff working in the area of refugee sponsorship, settlement, and support, as well as advocacy on immigration and refugee issues. The Disciples Refugee and Immigration Ministries (RIM) addresses similar concerns, including the particular challenges of immigration in the present United States context. Refugee and Immigration Ministries equips the church to respond to Jesus’ call to welcome the stranger through refugee resettlement, ministering to immigrants and advocacy. RIM provides resources for local congregations, legal consultations, and connections to hands-on mission work. In the rapidly changing political current, this office has promptly responded to certain U.S. policy changes. The Disciples have also provided legal services to the church and community members with Disciples Immigration Legal Counsel, which helps congregations protect their rights, understand their options, and work through the U.S. immigration system.

Significant aspects of refugee and immigration issues in our two countries are impacting each other at this point, and the potential for joint work on this issue is great. In addition to the work that members of both churches in Canada might do in our own context, there may be opportunities for joint advocacy and action that would include the concerns of both countries, as well as for learning from each other about best practices in our work.

A range of program work offers opportunities for cooperation, for learning from each other, and for action together. The youth and young adult networks and ministries of both churches might meet together or attend each other’s regional or national gatherings (e.g., the United Church’s Rendezvous event and the joint National Youth Event of the Disciples of Christ and the United Church of Christ). Opportunities for learning and collaboration may arise from meetings or other connections of those working in the areas of stewardship, human resources, and communications. These might include ideas for sharing or joint production of some resources or shared planning of educational events. Collaborations in communication could include partnering on social media, a joint website, or an agreement to include newsfeeds from ecumenical partners on each denomination’s website.

Possibilities for resource-sharing may be numerous. Many of the justice issues in which both churches are engaged may involve the development of resources (and in some cases campaigns) that could invite collaboration. As well, those developing liturgy and producing worship resources might work together on some projects or share with each other resources created by members of their particular denomination.

One of the most important (and complex) outcomes of a full communion agreement will be the development of a process for implementing mutual recognition of ministries. This will involve national and regional offices in both denominations, as well as local congregations open to the possibilities of being served by a minister from the partner denomination. The bi-national nature of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada and the already existing flow of people across our borders suggests that as these processes are put into place new and creative opportunities for ministry together may be opened.

As well, ministry personnel may find ways to meet with and learn from each other, such as through joint continuing education events. Theological colleges related to each denomination could also be encouraged to participate in the development of relationships arising from full communion. A meeting of Deans and Principals could identify possibilities for partnership or exchange that would enhance students’ education.

As we journey together in the spirit of full communion, other ways of accompanying each other in the challenges and joys we face could be explored. The appointment of representatives to each other’s regional or national governing bodies, meetings, assemblies, and other significant gatherings, would recognize that a full communion relationship implies a new dimension of accountability to one another as we make decisions about the life and work of each of our churches. Supporting connections among local faith communities and ministries with similar contexts and commitments (e.g., Indigenous ministries, outreach ministries, migrant or ethnic ministries, African- American and Afro-Canadian communities, etc.) would be one way to bring the resources of partnership and accompaniment to local communities.

One of the marks of full communion is mutual recognition of members. What are the practical implications of this commitment? A national implementation team could consider situations where such recognition would have an impact and processes for giving it meaning. Examples include individuals participating in the other denomination for a period of time, or Disciples members in Canada attending the United Church in a community with no Disciples congregation, or United Church members who live part of the year in the United States and choose to participate actively in a Disciples congregation.

Finally, it will be important to be aware of the implications of our partnership for our involvement in wider ecumenical and interfaith networks. Might we encourage the networks of ecumenical officers in both countries to meet together on occasion? How does our involvement in the ecumenical and interfaith councils of Canada and the United States (as well as globally) inform our relationship, and what do we bring to those bodies as full communion partners? How will we share with each other the gifts, resources, and challenges of our ecumenical and interfaith engagement?

The energizing and creative possibilities in our relationship are many, and others will be discovered only as we live into a deeper understanding and vision of our mission and ministry together.

Challenges to Full Communion

Any Full Communion agreement between denominations presents challenges as well as opportunities. That these challenges are shared by the partner churches indicates that both have much to gain through increased collaboration.

Institutional Capacity

Both denominations face a future of declining resources and a decreased ability to carry out the full range of mission and ministry activities, including ecumenical work. Both denominational offices are likely to become smaller, with fewer staff and less funding. In the United Church much institutional time and energy has been and will be devoted to major changes in the church’s governance, structure and funding. This may affect not just commitment to full communion at the national level, but enthusiasm in local communities of faith to work alongside their full communion partners in Canada and across the border.

Knowing Each Other

The Disciples of Christ congregations in the United States may know very little about The United Church of Canada. In Canada, United Church and Disciples communities of faith may know each other if they are in proximity. Otherwise, it is doubtful if the more numerous United Church congregations have much familiarity with the Disciples. As well, some Canadian Disciples may still think of the United Church in terms of the end of talks in the 1980s. An increased knowledge of each denomination’s full communion partner, at local and regional as well as national levels, is essential to a rich relationship and affirmation of both churches’ ecumenical visions. Presenting the full communion agreement to both partners must include upholding that such an agreement is not a “backdoor” to union. The local contexts of each partner church are not seen as incidental, but rather as central, to their identities, and each denomination has been called to God’s mission and ministry in its own distinct location and context.

Immigration

In recent years Canada has tightened visa requirements for foreign clergy being admitted to Canadian churches. In the United States, restrictions on immigration are increasingly common. A full communion agreement, with its mutual recognition of ministries and embrace of mobility between the two partner denominations, may encounter obstacles to the movement of ministry personnel across borders.

Diversity

Both the United Church and the Disciples of Christ are, as North American denominations, predominantly white in their makeup, although both are committed to an intercultural vision. Yet the worldwide church is shifting its center of gravity to the global South; by 2050 white, non-Hispanic Christians will be only one-fifth to one-sixth of the world’s Christian believers, while both the United States and Canada will see increases in the non- white proportion of their populations. Although the dynamics of race, ethnicity, language and culture are different in Canada and the United States, both denominations must grapple with how to move from their current base into becoming more intercultural, during a period that will likely see resistance to these shifts in racial, ethnic, linguistic, and cultural makeup.

Justice

Justice is an essential part of our respective identities. Both the United Church and the Disciples of Christ are known to have a deep passion for justice. Both churches heed the biblical mandate, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8) The two denominations may explore means of collaboration and cooperation across borders when called on to denounce injustice and oppression. As both denominations consider justice in society and the world, it is vital not to forget justice in the Church. There are concerns of a “take over” when it comes to numbers, reputation and the size of the respective churches in Canada. It is important to be cognizant of the concern that “mission” has different connotations in both countries, especially for Indigenous persons. The term “mission” for some brings irredeemable memories. Opportunities to make full communion a reality in global missions and ecumenical relations and activities need to be explored.

Conclusion

Movements of faith always involve openness to the Spirit. The Planning Group offers the hope that this full communion agreement might be led by the Spirit. The two denominations should put in place structures to allow the experience of full communion to grow into deeper relationships. This will mean intentional efforts to develop opportunities to learn, to worship and to engage together at denominational, regional, and local levels. While structures seem contrary to the experience of movements, in fact all movements require organizational attention. Most importantly, structures enable this full communion agreement to keep before the churches the vision of the prayer of Jesus “that all may be one” and through them the world might be blessed.

The Planning Group believes this journey of full communion may be an opening to something truly transformative for us and for others.

Members of the Planning Group
The United Church of Canada

Nora Sanders, General Secretary, General Council

John H. Young, Executive Minister, Theological Leadership

Gail Allan, Coordinator, Ecumenical, Interchurch and Interfaith Relations

Shannon McCarthy, Executive Secretary, Alberta Northwest and Manitoba Northwestern Ontario Conferences

Heather Leffler, Minister

Daniel Hayward, Minister, Chair of Theology and Interchurch Interfaith Committee

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the UNITED STATES and Canada

Teresa “Terri” Hord Owens, General Minister and President

Timothy James, Associate General Minister and Administrative Secretary of the National Convocation

Paul S. Tche, President, Council on Christian Unity Jennifer Garbin, Regional Minister of Canada Mark G. Toulouse, Historian and Theologian Raymond A. Cuthbert, Minister

GA-1902

GA-1902

Central Pastoral Office for Hispanic Ministries
Rev. Lori Tapia, National Pastor for Hispanic Ministries
1099 N. Meridian St, Suite 700, P.O. Box 1986, Indianapolis, IN 46206-1986
Office: 317-713-2584, 2583 Fax: 317-635-3700
www.obrahispana.org

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I. Mission

The Central Pastoral Office for Hispanic Ministries’ (CPOHM) mission is threefold: to offer pastoral care to Hispanic ministers and congregations; to advice and counsel the different manifestations of our denomination about Hispanic Ministries; and to be an advocate for Hispanic people, congregations and their issues.

We, the Obra Hispana, belong to Jesus as one family, sharing our resources to grow together through our relationships. (revised identity statement, Dec. 2016)

 II. Personnel

The CPOHM has two persons on staff: the National Pastor and an Administrative Assistant to assist, communicate, organize, and manage finances and programs for the CPOHM and Hispanic churches.

III. Members of the Pastoral Commission for Hispanic Ministries (2018-19)

The members of the Pastoral Commission for Hispanic Ministries are:

Samuel Ramirez
Moderator, National Hispanic and Bilingual Fellowship (PSW)
Joel Saucedo
Past Moderator (SW)
Evangelina Perez
Moderator Elect (SW)
Israel Martinez
Vice-Moderator
Moderator, SC Convention
Rossy Ricart
Secretary
Moderator, MW Convention
Aurelio Lopez
Vice-Secretary
Moderator, AZ Convention
Soriliz Rodriguez
National Hispanic & Bilingual
Women’s Ministry President
Pamela Lira
Young Adult Representative
Isuí Vazquez
Youth Representative
Selena Reyes
Moderator, SE Convention
Vilson Hurtado
Representative, SE Convention 
Ruben Cruz
Representative, MW Convention

Karen Sarabia
Representative, AZ ConventionDelmy Amaya
Moderator, Pacific Convention
Pedro Valladarez
Representative, Pacific Convention
Jose Cisneros
Moderator, SW Convention
Isis Villaroel
Representative, SW Convention
Myriam Martinez
Representative, NE Convention
Chaim Rodriguez
Representative, NE Convention
Bernice Rivera
Moderator, NW Convention
Vacant
Representative, NW Convention
Rodolfo Acosta
Moderator, Central Convention
Jorge Vela
Representative, Central Convention
Vacant
Representative, SC Convention

General Board Representatives

Bill Rose-Heim
CRM- Regional Minister, GKC
Teresa Dulyea-Parker
CRM- Regional Minister,IL/WI
 Jackie Bunch
General Board Representative, Ohio
Judith Allen Dalton
General Board Representative, SW
Rogelio Martinez
Representative of the Hispanic Board of Directors/Obra Hispana Rep to the General Board

Ex-Officio Members

Teresa Hord-Owens
General Minister and President
CC(DOC) in USA and Canada
Lori Tapia
National Pastor
for Hispanic Ministries

IV. Future Vision

For the Obra Hispana, 2018 represented a historical moment with the election of the first female, first Mexican-American to serve as National Pastor. In addition, there are several historical moments that are vital to mention in this report to the General Board.

  • For more than a decade there have been six formally recognized Hispanic Conventions that are designed to provide support, fellowship and capacity building for the congregations located within these boundaries. The expansion of Hispanic ministries had created areas where these boundaries hindered participation for many. A realignment of these geographical lines to increase connectivity was approved at the 2018 National Hispanic Assembly, increasing this number to nine. The new Conventions are recognized as the Northwest Convention (Oregon and Washington), the Central Convention (Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska) and the South-Central Convention (Alabama, Northwest Florida, Tennessee and Georgia). Congregations in these areas are encouraged to connect in the new geographical area, but also to remain connected in the former as possible.
  • A revision to the Constitution restructured the elected membership to include a young adult representative (19-29) and a youth representative (16-18) as members with voice and vote. Additionally, the President of the National Hispanic and Bilingual Women’s Ministry was on the board in an unofficially named capacity as an at-large member and this revision placed this position as a formal (not at-large) member with voice and vote. These changes came into effect and were a positive contribution to the December 2018 annual board meeting.
  • To enhance the programming of the Obra Hispana, three new ad-hoc committees were developed at the December 2018 board meeting through of the CPOHM. Historically, Finanance, Personnel and Assembly Program Planning, have been the recognized sub-committees and the inclusion of these additional committees will enhance and strengthen the ministry of the Obra Hispana at the local, regional and general levels. These committees will be referred to the 2020 Hispanic Assembly for formal inclusion in the constitution as standing committee. New committees are: 1) Education, 2) New Church, and 3) Marketing.

Each of these areas are in alignment with the five priorities set by the National Pastor and approved by the Board and Pastoral Commission in December 2018. The five priorities are: 1) Pastoral Care, 2) Education and Capacity Building, 3) Youth and Young Adult Leadership Development, 4) Development of Contextual Resources, and 5) Branding for Strengthened Identity.

 V. Theological Education

The CPOHM is committed to increased access to quality theological education, which is accessible, affordable and relevant to the multi-cultural needs of the Obra Hispana in all its expressions. The Obra Hispana continue to focus on strengthening our present programs, while continuing to find ways to expand through new and innovative partnerships and by utilizing the gifts of members of the Obra with more intentionality.

While there are additional streams to capacity building and theological education, three programs provide structured theological education opportunities:

Disciples Seminary Foundation:

Certificate of Ministry Studies Program (CMS) is an intensive, two year program offered in Claremont and San Diego, California, and in 2018 expanded to Portland, OR. Students are engaged in continuous learning, and weekend intensive courses which are all offered in Spanish. The program is recognized by the PSWR as a high level educational opportunity and partnership with CST provides pathways to seminary for graduates of this certificate program. The Certificate of Ministerial Studies (“CMS”) is designed for adults who are interested in an introduction to the kind of studies found in seminary and is for recognized for completing the educational requirements for commissioned ministry, learning more about advanced theological education, enrichment for lay leaders, or any combination of reasons. CMS is a unique program focused on contextual learning for ministry today. Part of the richness of the CMS is that individuals bring their personal experiences and/or professional considerations to the program. An average of 60-70 students attend annually.

Diploma of Ministry Studies Program (DMS), implemented in 2018 to offer extended education beyond the CMS program, is designed for people who are interested in seminary level studies of the Bible, Theology, and Ministry and have already completed the Certificate of Ministry Studies Program (CMS). This program is ideal for commissioned or licensed minister, or a lay leader who wants to learn more about the Bible, Theology and Ministry. All CMS graduates, and anyone who has completed college level study or other Biblical studies and want to continue their education in a program that offers seminary quality classes should consider this program.

Lexington Theological Seminary:

Certificate in Hispanic Ministries Program provides theological, biblical and ministerial training to men and women for leadership in Spanish speaking and bilingual Hispanic congregations. The program is co-sponsored by the Central Pastoral Office for Hispanic Ministries and courses in this program examine the 16 competencies as required by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) as submitted by the GCOM. To accommodate the heavy schedules of clergy and lay leaders already serving, students attend a week long intensive training, covering three courses, once a year for four years. Each course is offered in Spanish, and students who successfully complete all 12 courses will earn a Certificate in Hispanic Ministries or CEU credit. 2016 was the pilot of this program with 42 pastors and lay leaders from across the life of the Obra Hispana attending. In 2019, over 30 individuals will become the first graduating class, witnessing the desire of the Spanish speaking community to enhance ministry through theological education and yet, this reminds us of the scarcity of this valuable resource for the whole church. Evaluation of the four year pilot program are presently undergoing and the program will be adapted to a two year, continuous learning program in the fall of 2019.

LTS Certificate 2019 program dates: June 3-7

Courses: Church Administration, Christian Ethics, Diversity in a Global World

Southwest Hispanic Convention:

Continuing Education Summer Program provides access to continuing education and growth opportunities for pastors and lay leaders in an intensive, week-long summer program held in partnership with Brite Divinity School. This program is for recognized by the Southwest Region for completing the educational requirements for commissioned ministry and is designed to meet the 16 competencies, as well as providing opportunities for learning more about advanced theological education, enrichment for lay leaders, and capacity building for a vital church.

2018 program dates: June 17-21

Escuela de Formación Ministerial (School of Ministerial Formation)

This program is designed to expose pastors and lay leaders to quality theological education, ministry formation and faith development in a three year (2 semesters per year), three level program that equips students to meet the 16 competencies of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). This Institute is registered with the State of Texas, and is recognized by the region and the convention. Each year an average of 25 new students begin the program.

CPOHM is determined to seek out help from our Disciples partners in mission, as we envision the future of theological education in new ways for the Obra Hispana and beyond. In collaboration with AETH (Association for Hispanic Theological Education) we are moving to have the above programs recognized and accredited in the near future.

SCHOLARSHIPS

The Domingo Rodriguez Permanent Fund provides support for scholarships for students seeking an M.Div from an ATS Seminary. The increased access to certificate and other programs has directly impacted the number of students seeking formal seminary education. In 2017, 7 Latinx students were awarded scholarships, while in 2018 this number doubled with new students requesting support for the Spring 2019 semester.

Hispanic ministries recognized the need to equip and prepare quality Latino and Latina ministers, not only for Spanish speaking and bilingual Hispanic context congregational ministry, but for the whole Church.

VI. The CPOHM & the Church-at-Large

Over the past several years, the rapidly changing climate of society has created a need to focus on advocacy, education and awareness beyond what the “norm” was for the Hispanic community of faith. Dialogue around politics, the ins and outs of our legislative systems, immigration reform, racism and more, were not the focus of most sermons and teachings. The need to engage and support has led the work of CPOHM into new and diverse relationship and partnership throughout the Church. Difficult circumstances related to the ongoing immigration crisis, violence and hate crimes, increased mental health issues, and more, has led CPOHM to increased advocacy and outreach. Below are some ways CPOHM has furthered the priorities our Church:

 

  1. Pro-Reconciliation: The National Pastor is part of the Reconciliation Commission. Collaboration with the Reconciliation Ministry, bilingual and bi-cultural (Spanish/English) individuals have been trained as anti-racism trainers/facilitators, increasing the opportunity for the Spanish speaking community to engage in rich and in-depth discussion around racism and create systemic change through increased awareness. This will additionally facilitate anti-racism training requirement for Spanish speaking clergy who are within regions that are unable to provide this resource. The number of Latinx clergy and lay leaders who have     been exposed to training has more than doubled over the past two years and this is expected to continue.   Anti-racism training has been an integral component to the #laObraNOW Young Adult Leadership  Experiences held in 2018, and will continue moving forward.

 

  1. New Church: CPOHM supports the growing number of Hispanic new congregations and networking with New Church Ministries, supporting leadership academy and other efforts. Formal relationship with the College of Regional Ministers continues to foster a spirit of collaboration when working with new church development. The CPOHM emphasizes the importance of partnership in supporting new church starts into relationship with the convención, region and Obra Hispana. Over the past two years, at least 4 new church starts have launched, with 7 more actively engaged in the pre-process.

 

  1. Transforming congregations: The different educational ventures of the CPOHM seek to empower and transform our existing congregations, particularly by helping our ministers to be better pastoral leaders. Increased access to training and resources in Spanish will continue to enhance the life of the church.

 

  1. Forming and reforming leadership: CPOHM continues its emphasis on leadership development. CPOHM also organizes and resources ministerial retreats, workshops and assemblies for Latino and Latina ministers. Many of these workshops and seminars take place during Hispanic Convention Assemblies and others during pastoral visits from the National Pastor where some Hispanic churches gather for a Saturday Additionally, support to local congregations who are experiencing difficulties continues the rise, and is a sign of the effects of a changing climate in which we live. Training and resourcing remains in high demand in the areas of immigration, healthy boundaries/ethics, leadership development and church administration.

 

  1. Ecumenical: The National Pastor is engaged in the ecumenical work of Christian Churches Together, with a leadership role in the Hispanic Network of CCT. These are Executive Hispanic leaders from the Historical Protestant, Evangelical, Catholic, Charismatic, Pentecostal churches, and Independent leaders who gather to discuss issues of unity, immigration, younger generations, poverty and more. Additionally, through Advocacy efforts on poverty, equality and immigration, increased ecumenical participation with other entities.

 

VII. Financial Statements

CPOHM finances are managed by the OGMP’s Treasury Services and has been positive and has fostered increased understanding of the fiscal position of the CPOHM. Year-end 2018 financial statements demonstrate an increase in giving from the local congregation, individual and others. The Obra Hispana continues to experience growth relationally and this in turn is reflected financially. We continue to invest for future viability of the Obra Hispana and hold funds with both Christian Church Foundation and Church Extension.

VIII. Conclusion

CPOHM is committed to serve the growing Hispanic Disciples constituency. Our strengthen identity has fostered enhanced connection and this has energized Hispanic ministry at the local, regional and general level. Strengthened relationship in and among the Hispanic community, and across the expressions has enabled the CPOHM to better serve our Church.

 

Recommended Action

 

The General Board receives this report from the Central Pastoral Office for Hispanic Ministries and forwards it to the 2019 General Assembly for consideration and discussion.

GA-1734

(Operational, Policy and Organizational)

ELECTION OF THE GENERAL MINISTER AND PRESIDENT

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WHEREAS, the Administrative Committee of the General Board has complied with the procedures and requirements set forth in The Design for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the Standing Rules of the General Board, in the nomination of Teresa Hord Owens for election as General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada; and

WHEREAS, in accordance with those procedures, the General Board has voted “to forward the name;”

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada, meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, July 8-12, 2017, elects Teresa Hord Owens as General Minister and President for a term of six years beginning July 13, 2017.

General Board of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

The General Board recommends that the General Assembly ADOPT GA-1734 (Discussion time: 12 minutes)

 

Worship included many styles, quotable moments

The General Assembly soundtrack was founded on the work of this talented group of musicians. They were joined by an 80-voice choir on Saturday and Sunday made up of Disciples from across North America.
The General Assembly soundtrack was founded on the work of this talented group of musicians. They were joined by an 80-voice choir on Saturday and Sunday made up of Disciples from across North America.

Local media coverage: Columbus Dispatch

Tweets as meditation materials. Drum lines and dancers. New songs and classical organ music. General Assembly worship was a beautiful collage of experience, learning and worship.

Worship opened the assembly Saturday evening with the classic Handel’s “Comfort Ye” followed by a mix of music and readings of Isaiah 40 in Korean, Spanish and French backed by a full chorus. Teresa Hord-Owens delivered the message to be comforted but not comfortable until justice rolls down. “The point of comfort is a pivot point to action,” she said.

Sunday evening was punctuated by short meditations by Samuel Ramirez, Erin Wathen, Beau Underwood, Tracey Stewart and Allison Enari. Music styles ranged from a rock number calling us to action to soft ballads and classic hymns, all following the themes of comfort, prepare, call, challenge and SOAR! (See Toolkit to access tweets.)

GA News worship communion2Monday’s speaker, Amy Butler, shared the metaphor of the Church as trapeze artist. She said, “It’s fear, at every turn, at the prospect of this overwhelming call to be the church, and heal the world, and live into God’s hopes for my life, for all our human lives…it’s the fear of falling that keeps us from letting go, from jumping off, from embracing a future we don’t know with abandon…because most times all we can see are visions of what it would feel like to land hard on the unyielding ground.”

A celebration of 25 years of partnership with the United Church of Christ was a highlight of Tuesday’s worship featuring Geoffrey Black, general minister and president of our partner denomination. He said, “But the truth is that too often we find ourselves in some part of the wilderness… There is a wonderful peculiarity about these desolate places… But God has a way of showing up – in the wilderness.”

Photo courtesy of Bruce Barkhauer
Photo courtesy of Bruce Barkhauer

At the Wednesday all-assembly dinner a challenge was issued by William J. Barber II, Disciple pastor and leader of the Moral Monday movement. His diagnosis: America has a heart problem. He called a “code blue” for a team with hope to give it a moral defibrillation. Participants were also treated to some music by the James brothers – Titus, Timothy and Eugene – who represent all three expressions of the Church as pastor, National Convocation leader and regional minister respectively.

And finally we were called to SOAR! Adam Hamilton, the evening’s preacher, warned us that “soaring feels like a lot of work and our legs get cramped in the nest.” He reminded us that Jesus didn’t sit in his office all day and asked if we are a church who will welcome the people in our community. He concluded it is our task to remind people they are loved by God.

GA News Worship dancer