I was asked to be Phillip’s representative to the Global Missions Council of Theological Students. Our initial meeting was October 25-28, 2012. Two of my distinguished predecessors were Melanie Van Weelden and Kelly Gindlesberger. I thought at first that this might be a little like the Special Forces Seminar during Army Basic Training when recruiting was the underlying purpose. “You probably can’t make it, but sign up and let’s see.” The weekend in Cleveland, Ohio, home of the UCC House, ended up being something very different.
First, it was made abundantly clear that missions for the church today have nothing to do with the theologia gloriae of Christianity’s checkered past and preaching to indigenous populations. As I have learned throughout my years at Phillips, “missions” is all about mutuality and solidarity. It is about globalization and the world economy on one hand and working together in partnership on the other.
The second emphasis of the program is spreading the word about Global Missions to the communities we serve. We, as pastors and prospective pastors, stress representative ministry. We are and can be where God is ministering to the struggling and oppressed through the persons of some trained and dedicated professionals. Taking up offerings for Global Missions and Week of Compassion is about faces with names and needs. Sallie McFague more than adequately states the real issue in her essay “Human Beings, Embodiment and Our Home the Earth” in Reconstructing Christian Theology when she says, “. . . sin is the refusal of the haves to share space and land with the have-nots.” I sometimes think our professors actually have a plan for helping us to think very differently about ourselves, our ministries and the world around us.
There will be more to come. In the late spring or early summer, the council (me included) will be traveling to several mission sites in Kenya. We will present the phrase that has become a guiding light for post-modern missions, a “critical presence,” a presence of sharing a burden and supporting social justice.
I gained a great deal of understanding of and appreciation for the cooperative efforts of the Disciples of Christ and the United Church of Christ in doing mission work together throughout the world.