This October, up to 250 mission leaders are expected to gather in the Dallas area for an important mission consultation that seeks to shape concrete, measurable strategies for addressing life-and-death issues of poverty, reconciliation among cultures of violence, and witnessing to the good news of God’s love through Jesus Christ.
The consultation, called “Dallas II – Better Together: Collective Impact for God’s Mission,” will take place in Dallas, October 5–7, 2012.
Participants are expected to include the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Executive Director of the Presbyterian Church’s General Assembly Mission Council, and leadership from the Outreach Foundation, Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship, the Medical Benevolence Foundation, Presbyterian global partners, and other Presbyterian mission organizations.
“With the strategies developed at Dallas II, all Presbyterians will be invited to join hands to make a collective impact, bridging geographical and theological divides, and witnessing to the transforming love of Jesus Christ,” says Hunter Farrell, Director of Presbyterian World Mission. “Many Christians believe that God calls us not only to encourage and train one another in daily obedience to God’s will, but corporately to reveal God’s grace in places of suffering and need, to resist the forces that tyrannize, and to support the forces that restore the dignity of all people as God’s children so that the gospel is most fully proclaimed.”
Farrell admits that addressing the critical global issues of poverty, evangelism, and reconciliation might seem like impossible issues to tackle, but in fact countless Presbyterian churches, mission organizations, and individual Christians have been addressing these very issues in various ways.
“It’s a little like mission work in general: in recent decades, a seismic shift in how we understand and practice mission has led to direct involvement of U.S. Presbyterians at unprecedented levels,” Farrell says. “Millions of Americans participate in short-term mission trips each year. Presbyterian mission organizations are relating directly to national churches, presbyteries, church institutions and individual congregations abroad. But is all that mission activity necessarily effective? Is there adequate broad cross-sector coordination in order to address these critical global issues?”
Based on what World Mission has heard from global partners and our mission workers, there is a feeling that, in many ways, Presbyterian churches are less than effective in mission. “We often engage in God’s mission by sending costly ‘mission teams’ to paint — and sometimes re-paint — churches and community centers, bring gifts, and organize Vacation Bible School complete with photo ops.”
Farrell asks us to imagine what it would look like if a core group of church leaders agree to put aside individual agendas for gospel change and agree to collaborate on concrete strategies for the three critical global issues. “What if those same leaders went back to their congregations, presbyteries, and mission organizations with a commitment to work together, smarter, for collective impact? The impact would be phenomenal—women and children freed from poverty’s grip, many people introduced to God’s love, and violence reduced. And our own U.S. congregations will find renewal, a shared sense of purpose, and greater unity in a time of significant conflict. In order to make a real difference in the world, we need to work together.”
Farell says that Christian leaders across the global south are saying that while short-term missions and partnerships are important, their people are struggling with life-and-death issues. “They are asking for our help to address them,” he says.
“Dallas II – Better Together” follows in the footsteps of the historic Dallas Consultation in 2008 that brought together leaders from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and Presbyterian groups engaged in mission around the world.
At the first Dallas consultation, 64 people from across the church and around the world gathered to build greater trust and coordination among PC(USA) “mission initiators,” mission supporters, and the GAMC ministries; and to identify and agree upon the “benchmarks” (core values) and consequent “mission practices” that should characterize all Presbyterian mission work.
Participants signed a document called “An Invitation to Expanding Partnership in God’s Mission” at the conclusion of the Dallas consultation.
That invitation includes a covenant to live and serve together and a commitment to work cooperatively. The participants also pledged to celebrate diverse Presbyterian approaches to mission, to share responsibility for education and preparation of all Presbyterians for mission, and to seek and support more mission personnel.
The Dallas continuation committee is a small group responsible for continuing the vision of the first Dallas consultation. They created a second shorter, focused statement derived from the principals of partnership and mutuality embodied in the first Dallas consultation. “Doing Mission in Christ’s Way” outlines the values that run through faithful and effective mission practice.
“At the first Dallas Consultation, it became clear that we are in the middle of a sea change in the way God’s mission will be done across the world,” says Rick Ufford-Chase, moderator of the 216th General Assembly and a facilitator at Dallas II. “Since that gathering four years ago, our partners around the world have named the critical global initiatives that will define our work together for the next 50 years. Simultaneously, our church structures in the United States that have defined how we do mission together in the world for the last fifty years are changing dramatically. Taken together, these trends offer an opportunity to open ourselves to the movement of God’s spirit and to follow that spirit in new directions.”
Dallas II is an attempt to take the next steps into this new way of doing mission together. “We are inviting participants to be consultants in this process in order to do mission collaboratively with other Presbyterians,” Ufford-Chase says. “We need to be willing to cross firmly entrenched boundaries to do the work, and to seed a new movement for mission that is likely to further our work in the world for the next 50 years.”
According to Farrell, “this consultation is about having the vision to dream of something new and different, and the commitment to help make that dream a reality.”
Learn more about Dallas II by visiting www.pcusa.org/dallas2. Join Presbyterian World Mission and Presbyterians across the country and around the globe by praying for the consultation and committing to become part of our vision to work together to make a collective impact in God’s world.