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Mission possible

World Mission lays out its plan for evaluating, moving ahead around the globe and across the U.S.

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

Philip Woods is Presbyterian World Mission’s Associate Director for Strategy, Program and Recruitment.

LOUISVILLE — The most direct way to find out the church’s calling in World Mission is to ask Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) partners and constituents, a World Mission strategist told a committee of the Presbyterian Mission Agency board last week.

That’s what’s behind international consultations that began in November 2018, and the three inside the U.S. that opened with last month’s consultation near Atlanta, according to Philip Woods, Presbyterian World Mission’s Associate Director for Strategy, Program and Recruitment. Woods reported last week to the PMA board’s Outreach to the World Committee.

International gatherings brought together 60-80 global partners each. U.S. consultations with PC(USA) constituency — representatives of congregations and mid councils, mission networks, people of color caucuses, young adults, Presbyterian Women and others — are expected to draw up to 120 participants or more.

During some of the consultations, the Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett, president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, has discussed the PMA’s Matthew 25 Invitation.

Consultations have to date generated more than 200 pages of notes, Woods said. They’re helping World Mission to answer some important questions, he said, including:

  • How effective have we been sharing together God’s mission?
  • Where is God calling us to put our energy today?
  • What resources are needed, and what can we contribute?

Partners who’ve been consulted to date had some common concerns, Woods said, including poverty and income inequality, climate change, racism and other forms of discrimination, violence and strategies for living with one’s neighbors. “Everyone’s talking about all of these,” he said.

Partners also said they appreciated coming together to work on the common problems they’re facing, Woods said.

“More than anything else, partners want us to learn mutuality — how we can be equal partners together accompanying each other in God’s mission,” he said. “It’s a big challenge, but it’s also a profound insight.”

World Mission also heard feedback on doing “mission from the margins.”

“How is God speaking to and calling us from the margins?” Woods asked. “How is God speaking to us through the people we push to the periphery? The world is no longer ‘over there’ — it is in our midst. How do we affirm this? U.S. society today is incredibly diverse.”

Another challenge identified during consultations is helping people make the connection between the local and the global. Woods said that in Madagascar, church workers there have discovered innovative ways to deliver healthcare to rural areas.

“We can learn from that,” he said. “It’s a challenge we are facing, but we don’t think to ask them to help us.”

Woods said that the consultation process — five have been completed and two more are scheduled — “gets us to think of our own world in fresh and new ways. We are hoping to find new ways of partnering together in God’s mission.”

Following the final U.S. consultation in May, World Mission’s senior staff will hold a retreat with an external facilitator in July to digest the feedback from each consultation and to chart a course forward. The Presbyterian Mission Agency board will be briefed on that process during its September meeting.

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