Better Together provides a space to share experiences with – and strategies for engaging – three critical global issues that PC(USA) global partners are challenging us to address together as the body of Christ. These three issues are 1) addressing root causes of poverty, especially as it impacts women and children; 2) sharing the Good News of God’s love in Jesus Christ; and 3) working for reconciliation in cultures of violence, including our own. The purpose of Better Together is to feed a conversation to shape concrete action strategies at the October 2012 “Dallas II: Better Together” consultation and beyond.
Jonathan Seitz, a Mission Co-Worker in Taipei, Taiwan, offers the following reflection on reframing the timeless questions of mission in a new day and age. Read more about Jonathan's work here.
PCUSA’s three global issues—poverty, witness, and peace—restate classical Christians practices in new language. They evoke the three main streams of the great, if beleaguered, modern ecumenical movement: justice, witness, and unity. These three early twentieth century major ecumenical streams grew out of seemingly discrete concerns:
These were the questions of earlier generations, and they are also our questions today. In time, ecumenical Christians came to believe that “we belong together,” and that unity, justice, and witness are streams of the same river. We are ineffective witnesses if we ignore the poverty or violence that surround us, and our institutional work for poverty and violence lose their basis if they are divorced from our faith in Christ. My guess is that many of us, either individually, or as churches, tend to relate more strongly to one or another of these issues, but as a whole we are called to practice all of them.
One of the delights of mission is that we are often called to work in places where the issues may be similar but the history and the responses are fundamentally different. One thing I have admired in Taiwan is how the call to these issues takes place simultaneously. The Presbyterian Church of Taiwan (PCT) is focusing intentionally on efforts at church growth, even as it remains committed to peace in a country that stands next to a rising military power. It’s a truly multi-ethnic church, with Taiwanese, Hakka, and minority ethnic groups. And it holds together churches that are quite wealthy and quite poor. Since moving to Taiwan, we’ve attended two churches regularly, one small and struggling and another large and established. Our family arrived in Taiwan in August 2009, just after a major hurricane, and it was amazing to watch the quick response of church groups.
Churches pursue their witness in a variety of creative ways. Like PCUSA’s “1001 in 10” campaign, which seeks to start 1001 worshipping communities in the coming decade, the PCT must witness to very different communities and has begun a one-leads-one campaign (which is pronounced like “101,” the nickname for Taiwan’s largest skyscraper). The movement provides an umbrella under which churches can pursue evangelism. Many churches have made the fifth Sunday every three months as a special opportunity to focus on witness. Christmas is usually seen primarily as an outreach time—when neighbors can be invited to learn the story of Christ’s birth. Many churches start after-school programs or participate in ethics programs at local schools. They provide computer classes or run language or music camps.
The strategic goals help echo these shared aspects of the Christian life, while also reminding congregations of the specific calling for Presbyterians today. How can Presbyterians in the US today contribute to a mission that advances the unity, justice, and witness of the church?