The General Assembly Mission Council (GAMC) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has adopted a “strategic direction” for its Presbyterian World Mission (PWM) over the next three to five years that seeks to knit together the myriad ways Presbyterians are engaged in mission around the world into “communities of mission practice.”

The new strategic direction acknowledges the “massive” shift since roughly 1960 “from one highly centralized agency into thousands of highly decentralized agencies” that “invites Presbyterian World Mission to reform its self-understanding and the focus of its work to include many U.S. Presbyterian mission constituents…” states a background paper accompanying the two-page strategy paper.

“We know that there are hundreds of valid international mission agencies out there doing good work,” PWM Director Hunter Farrell told the GAMC’s Evangelism Committee Feb. 25. “We also know that brand loyalty is less of a factor, so we began work on the strategic plan about two and a half years ago.”

During that time, Farrell said, PWM has consulted with more than 900 global partners, PC(USA) mission personnel, mission leaders around the denomination, ecumenical colleagues and other PC(USA) leaders. Seventeen “white papers” on various aspects of mission were developed to guide the deliberations and PWM officials “looked at regional priorities around the world,” he added.

The research was revealing, Farrell said, alluding to the background paper.

The Presbyterian Church’s Board of Foreign missions began sending missionaries overseas in 1837. This “direct mode” of mission served the church well, Farrell said, until the 1950s and 1960s when the maturing of the churches Presbyterians planted in other countries combined with the political desire to throw off vestiges of colonialism led to a change in the denomination’s approach to “equipping mode” — “focused in large part on empowering the national churches to grow in membership, leadership and capacity to serve their communities…”

That style of mission work has evolved over the last 30 years to the point, the background paper states, where “we believe the Spirit is calling our church to a deeper understanding of partnership” in mission.

And that “seismic shift in the understanding and practice of mission has opened the door to direct involvement of U.S. Presbyterians at unprecedented levels.”

“Our calling,” Farrell said, “is to connect all these dots.”

Thus the mission statement of the new strategy is “to engage with U.S. Presbyterians and global partners for faithful and effective participation in God’s mission in a globalized world, growing together as communities of mission practice.”

The strategy is built around six “core values” —

  • Dignity: to “treat each person with dignity and respect … following the model of Jesus, standing together with those who are marginalized.”
  • Empowerment: to “focus on long-term relationships, building the capacity of each member of the Body of Christ to engage in God’s mission …”
  • Holistic ministry: to “bring about the realization of God’s vision for our fallen world,” addressing both personal sinfulness and unjust structures, and to “share the gospel through evangelism, minister in compassion and advocate for justice.”
  • Partnership: to “work with partner churches and organizations … based on mutual respect and trust leading to common prophetic witness and mutual transparency” and “wherever possible” to work “with other members of the ecumenical family and partners of other faiths.”
  • Relevance to God’s world: to respond to the call of God “with creativity and integrity in a rapidly changing and interdependent world where local and global concerns converge in new ways.”
  • Stewardship: to “strive to restore God’s creation and to use its resources respectfully and responsibly” and to “place under the Lordship of Christ our time, talents, financial resources … political and economic choices … our relationships and our very lives.”

In addition, the strategy sets as “directional goals” the creation and nurturing of “communities of mission practice,” a commitment to “faithful and effective mission,” strategic engagement in critical global issues and the achievement of organizational excellence “through resource and knowledge management, strategic thinking, staff development and healthy work-life balance.”