Unity and Mission in a Fragmented World
Below is a brief essay written by Howard Goodrich for the “Tell it” contest of the 2011 Disciples General Assembly, where he highlights Global Ministries as an outstanding ministry example of wholeness in a fragmented world. Howard was regional minister in two Disciples regions. Later, he and Darlene were missionaries in Lesotho and Botswana, Africa, and served as interim co-area executives for Africa for several months. They have been retired for many years, but often attend our the Common Global Ministries Board meetings:
Ministries among Disciples as examples of wholeness are on the increase in our 21st century life. These include the redemptive presence of Week of Compassion with diverse partners alleviating suffering globally, 640 new culturally varied congregations since 2000, many established congregations transforming their witness from survival to mission and general units newly empowered through mutual initiatives for sharing and networking on behalf of the whole church. All of these and others are evidence for wholeness in a fragmented world.
Given our traditions, Disciples have an “emergent” edge. In my view Disciples are, by God’s gifts, a church for these times. If we can become more a movement and less a survival-oriented denomination, then the primacy of faith and mission will better characterize our presence in a fragmented world. Wholeness is that broad embrace of Jesus, enriched by his hospitality and inclusiveness, that potentially includes all in the one human family. Mission is, after all, the core expression of that embracing faith.
When Disciples practice a devotion to mission as the primary focus of faithfulness and that “other-centered” freedom known best in Jesus’ life, then surely God’s mystery, presence and grace will be at work through us.
When the historic God-given vision concerning the oneness of the Church also becomes a powerful imperative for mission, for a “critical presence” with and for a suffering and needful humanity, then surely God’s mystery, presence and grace will be at work among us.
But I believe Disciples’ outstanding “wholeness” witness is being expressed through Global Ministries. Global Ministries functions through 270 global mission partners. These include a vast diversity of self-governing global denominations, councils of churches, NGO’s and interfaith partners. Global Ministries is expressive of being “deconstructed” church, being one for the sake of mission in a suffering world. Global Ministries does not exercise a paternal authority over its many partners. Each has its own integrity and traditions, cultural uniqueness and ways of doing mission. Disciples accept, with charity and eagerness, the inspiration of these faith traditions. The whole Church is blessed and enriched by such mission witness and oneness. We work expectantly with each partner and are open to this wisdom. We receive from them the gifts of God through the mutuality of our common experiences and service. Unity and mission live together.
Global Ministries is a unique example of Disciples’ long quest for that living grass-root ecumenical mission and presence empowered through faith, humility and hospitality and enriched by diversity and the oneness of community in the exercise of servant purposes.
This unit of the church, still not that well understood or supported, is the Disciples’ premier example for wholeness in a fragmented world, for mission “from our doorsteps to the ends of the earth.”
Howard B. Goodrich, Jr.