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Healing through evangelism

The PC(USA)’s Evangelism Conference Oct. 3-5 will draw on the Gospel’s healing and liberating power

by the Rev. Carlton Johnson for Presbyterians Today | Special to Presbyterian News Service

Editor’s note: This piece is part of an ongoing series focused on the themes of “healing” and “repair.” Follow the  Presbyterians Today blog or check this Facebook page to see the other posts in the series as they’re published bimonthly.

‘The nature of Divine Love is to go as low as possible to serve the beloved.’ — Mechthild of Magdeburg

This powerful understanding of God’s propensity toward helping and healing the least of these comes from the story of the beguine Mechthild of Magdeburg. A movement of laywomen that arose in the 13th century, the beguines were contemplatives, mystics and healers. Mechthild posited that, “God is never closer than in the longing emptiness of the night.” From that emptiness, she received and shared “prophetic critiques of the religious leaders of her day for their lack of holiness and their hostility toward passionate spirituality.”

Elaine A. Heath writes in “The Mystic Way of Evangelism”: “The church that reflects gospel priorities in the future will be the church that pays attention to the issues of social and environmental justice in the name and spirit of Jesus. Christian movements for human rights, civil rights and environmental justice will become stronger and more influential during the next decades of the 21st century.”

Healing through evangelism includes “early prevention.” Children and teens need the good news, and the 2024 Evangelism Conference, “A Lifestyle that Exudes Justice,” will empower us to offer this with a workshop by the Rev. Neema Cyrus-Franklin, director of the Around the Table initiative. This initiative cultivates faith formation within households and serves as a potent tool for evangelism and social justice. Through interactive discussions, practical examples, and insightful teachings, attendees will gain valuable insights on integrating faith into everyday practices, fostering an environment where the Gospel thrives and justice is pursued and nurtured within the household setting.

The Rev. Dr. Debra J. Mumford, the dean and Frank H. Caldwell Professor of Homiletics at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, will be the conference preacher. An important part of the conference will be equipping participants to preach and teach justice as a lifestyle. Through this lifestyle of hope, we can heal ourselves and heal our land.

This was Julia Foote’s message. Ordained as the first woman deacon in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and the second to be ordained as an elder, Foote believed evangelism to be more than getting people to come to church. Foote indeed experienced “healing and sanctification as a deep reorientation of life away from fear and diminishment, toward boldness, belief in the power and of Christ within her and a willingness to defy social institutions and conventions that were sinful.”

Foote experiences healing of her own past as well as that of the horrors experienced by her mother through her own re-storying of her life. Through the lens of Zechariah 3:2, Foote claims the title of “a brand plucked from the burning.” She goes on to proclaim true holiness as a “radical and liberating call to equality between women and men, between Black and white.”

The Rev. Carlton Johnson

We echo Foote’s understanding of the healing and liberating power of the gospel. To learn more about this radical reorientation, we hope that you will join us for the Evangelism Conference, Oct. 3-5 in Louisville, Kentucky.

This story originally appeared here.

The Rev. Carlton Johnson is the associate director for Theology, Formation and Evangelism in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

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