In January, New Life Presbyterian Church in Atlanta will host the first-ever in-person national gathering of the Matthew 25 movement
by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — “An invitation to innovation” is the theme for the Matthew 25 Summit, which is set for Jan. 16-18, 2024, at New Life Presbyterian Church in Atlanta. Registration for the first-ever in person national gathering is now available here.
During a recorded episode of Being Matthew 25 broadcast on Wednesday and available here, here or here, the Rev. Dr. Diane Givens Moffett, president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, joined the Rev. DeEtte Decker, the PMA’s communications director, to discuss some of the reasons Moffett is eager for the summit to commence.
“I think innovation is important to being a believer, period — particularly in the Reformed tradition,” Moffett said. “Once Reformed, always reforming” means “always thinking about and discovering new ways and new methods to share the same message.”
“Living in this time when being the church is changing — we’re being transformed, and so we’ve got to look at new ways of getting this gospel message out so that people will know that who we believe in and what we have is real and makes a difference,” Moffett told Decker. “How do communities become communities? How do we talk about God in a way that is inviting? How do we do our ministries in such a way that they are certainly always meant to be mission-focused, but sometimes we get so internally focused.”
Moffett said she’s seen any number of worshiping communities, congregations and mid councils coming alive as they work at serving their community. “The innovation part is the encouragement to think outside the box,” she said. “If God does indeed do a new thing and we believe God is doing that, then we can perceive it? Can we be changed by it?”
Decker asked: What do you see emerging in the Matthew 25 movement?
“I see a lot of churches that are taking the poverty and racism piece seriously and doing new things — a lot of affordable housing. We have housing needs in many places around our country,” Moffett said. “Churches are realizing they can be a beacon of light for that.”
A church in the Synod of the Mid-Atlantic has constructed more than 180 apartment units and has housed itself permanently within the development “so they have a way in which to nurture the community,” Moffett said.
“That sounds very organic and relationally driven,” Decker replied. “Isn’t that what the Matthew 25 movement is about — to be in the midst of, to be the change in the world?”
Other churches and worshiping communities are engaging in for-profit ministries “in order to serve the community in a particular way,” Moffett said, noting there are “different ways of leveraging what God has given to us. … There are so many gifts and talents and opportunities that we have to be love with skin on it, to be the presence of Jesus in the midst of communities that are filled with pain.”
“That takes us in many creative directions depending on the context that we are ministering in,” Moffett said, “and what we believe the Spirit is calling us to do in that place.”
Among the Matthew 25 Summit speakers are the Rev. Dr. Victor Aloyo Jr., president of Columbia Theological Seminary; the Rev. Dr. Neddy Astudillo, an eco-theologian and coordinator of the Climate Justice and Faith Spanish program at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary; the Rev. Dr. Marcia Mount Shoop, an author, theologian and pastor; the Rev. Paul Timothy Roberts Sr., president of Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary; and Dr. William Yoo, Associate Professor of American Religious and Cultural History and director of the M.Div. Program at Columbia Theological Seminary and the author of “What Kind of Christianity: A History of Slavery and Anti-Black Racism in the Presbyterian Church.” Nearly a dozen workshops will be offered as well as a handful of panel discussions.
“I think what we do is learn from one another,” Moffett said. People including the PMA’s national staff “learn by listening to the presbyteries and the churches and the synods who are actually doing the work. We need to be together to have some coffee and some chat” after hearing what promises to be “some very inspiring messages.”
Not only will the Matthew 25 foci of building congregational vitality, dismantling structural racism and eradicating systemic poverty be explored, but so will the movement’s intersectional priorities: climate change, gender justice and heteropatriarchy, and militarism.
“It’s one thing to join the movement, but how do you embody the movement?” Moffett asked. “How does this start to take root in your particular church, presbytery or synod? We want to make sure that people are equipped and that they know about the resources we have” which have been “developed in response to folks who are doing this work.” In addition, the Matthew 25 Summit will hold time for “hearing from people who are doing this work, being inspired, coming together and knowing that God is in the midst of this.”
“This is the gospel that we are seeking to live out and to embody. I’m just really excited,” Moffett said.
Decker told viewers the Summit is open to everyone — even those in churches, mid councils and organizations that have not yet joined the Matthew 25 movement.
“There are some really wonderful things that God is doing through churches of all sizes — rural, urban, suburban churches, large and small churches, new worshiping communities,” Moffett said. “God is at work in all of this. But you know, we shouldn’t be surprised. This is the gospel.”
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