Dallas II: Better Together Background material for the consultation

For the past two years Presbyterian World Mission (PWM) has been undergoing a process of strategic planning in light of the changing circumstances in the world and of new developments within our own denomination. In the course of its research and deliberations, PWM has decided to narrow its mission focus to three critical global issues, which can be summarized as addressing poverty, engaging in witness, and promoting peace. It has also concluded that for maximum effectiveness its work should be done in collaboration with the broader Presbyterian family that at many levels is engaging in mission work independent of the denomination’s mission organization. This collaboration, it believes, should take place in “communities of mission practice,” a term adopted to connote the major paradigm shift in how mission may best be done in the coming years. The specific forms and areas of collaboration, however, will need to be worked out with the many mission participants in the PC(USA) who are committed to doing mission as a connectional church.

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  1. Comment by Dennis Smith, PCUSA World Mission Regional Liaison for Brazil and the Southern Cone. This October I will celebrate 35 years of service as a PCUSA mission worker. . . Great article, Jason! Three comments - First: On US seminaries and global mission, theologians and pastoralists from North and South, East and West need to be in constant conversation to discern how God is working in the world today. I work in Latin America and find that many US seminaries got stuck in a time warp a few decades ago in their understanding of theological thought and practice here. We need to re-build/strengthen spaces for such conversation. Second: It may be true that talk of evangelism makes many presbyterians nervous. But the strategy of giving priority to the evangelistic efforts of global partners – and responding positively to their requests for accompaniment, training and assistance – may need to be supplemented by additional efforts to reach those beyond the ability or vision of local churches, but it continues to be a sound and necessary strategy. Third: About governments that are hostile to Christianity. True enough. But it's also true that some governments and social movements are hostile to Christianity because they see it as being a Trojan horse for neo-imperialism – with concomitant racism, classism, aggressive proselytism, disdain for traditional cultures, lax personal behaviors and ethical values, and the rise of the consumer society. As we respond to such critiques we need to acknowledge that such abuses do indeed form part of the legacy – and the current practice – of some mission groups. Then, we can celebrate the fact that we have been doing mission in partnership for decades. And that our partners, under the guidance of the Spirit, been developing autochthonous expressions of Christ's church that are deeply rooted in local language and culture. There are many, many concrete examples today of mission partnership thoughtfully carried out with mutual accountability and mutual learnings in the way of Jesus. This is an important element of the self-understanding and identity of our mission partners throughout the world. Not as part of anti-imperialist rants, but as an element of our common history that they (and we) have had to deal with. In many cases, it has led our partners to a healthy sense of autonomy and maturity, something they bring to the table when they negotiate with us how we will work together as mission partners in the future.

    by Dennis Smith

    July 23, 2012

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