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.
After 33 years of PC(USA) mission service in Guatemala, in 2011 Dennis Smith and his family moved to Argentina where he currently serves as Presbyterian World Mission Regional Liaison for Brazil and the Southern Cone. Dennis.firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of our current critical global issues states that “faithful discipleship in a globalized world requires us to strengthen the capacity of the PC(USA) and its global partners to witness to God's love in Jesus Christ.”
The PC(USA) has been doing mission for 175 years. One of our core learnings has been that it's God's mission, not ours; God's Church, not ours. Another has been that God's Spirit blows where she will in a broken world - strengthening, nourishing, working to draw all of humankind into God's wholeness.
(One must not understate the brokenness. Individuals, families and communities are breaking all around us. Yet the Hope of New Life in Christ nourished by God's Spirit always, always is being born in our midst).
One more learning - God is present in human history and human culture. Languages, identity, regional differences, foods, music, art, handicrafts, the ways we think and relate to one another in community all illustrate that we are creators created in the image of the Creator.
God is always the same. But our ways of reflecting on God's presence in our midst, our ways of reading the Bible, our ways of experiencing God's transforming power in our lives – all develop in conversation with time and place.
That is why we need each other. As we build friendships with people that are very different from us, and whose experience of God complements our own, we not only build community, we also deepen and broaden our understanding of who God is.
I'm thankful that since I was very young, my parents and my church gave me opportunities to share with people from other churches and cultures and to learn from them that God was greater than my religious tradition; that God was not subject to my rules. In 35 years of mission service in Latin America I have been given the gift of learning from trusted colleagues how to re-read the Bible through Latin American eyes and of how to re-think theology and pastoral practice in this time and place.
Here's what I've found: When it comes to their understanding of Latin American theological reflection, many of the PC(USA) pastors and seminarians I talk to – even some of the professors! - seem to have gotten stuck in a time warp in the 1980s. Thank God for Gustavo Gutiérrez and José Míguez Bonino. But Latin America has changed dramatically in the last 30 years and pastoral and theological reflection has emerged apace. We can do better.
Here's what I propose: All Presbyterian seminarians and all Presbyterian theological seminaries will strengthen the capacity of the PC(USA) to witness to God's love in Jesus Christ as they learn to learn how and where God is present in God's world, and how God's people all over the world are reflecting on that presence. Not just the missiologists. Also the Biblical scholars, the theologians, the pastoral care folks.
And vice versa.
A final question:
Part of my job as Presbyterian Mission Regional Liaison for Brazil and the Southern Cone is to relate to three graduate-level theological seminaries with world-class Biblical scholars and theologians located in my region - they'd love to talk to you!