Global Ministries

The United Methodist Church

Connecting the Church in Mission

Fraternal Workers

Date Posted: 28/06/2013 9:00:00 AM
Posted By: Global Ministries

By the Rev. Ronald Whitlatch*

 “Ministry With” is nothing new to Methodism.

Soon after arriving in Argentina in 1983 as a United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries missionary, my wife Cathy and I were invited to meet with Bishop Federico Pagura who wanted to get to know us and welcome us to ministry with the Argentina Evangelical Methodist Church. After informing us that we needed to plan on staying for at least two three-year terms in order to have sufficient time to first learn the language and culture and then contribute something to the church, he told us that we must no longer think of ourselves as missionaries. “Missionary” is a term that was no longer used in that church, he informed us. Instead, we should think of ourselves as “obreros fraternales” – fraternal workers – working side by side in partnership with the church in Argentina. We would be afforded all the rights of other pastors and would be treated the same as other pastors. In essence, we were encouraged to reject notions that we had something special to offer people as missionaries from the North and instead to choose to learn and work among the people in ministry “with” them, not “to” or “at” or “for” them.

former Bishop Federico Pagua of Argentina

“Ministry With” was not a new revelation for Bishop Pagura. A decade earlier when he was bishop in Panama and Costa Rica he wrote a manifesto that caused an uproar in the missionary community that was re-thinking its theology and practice of mission. The declaration is often referred to as “Missionary Go Home!” but in actuality it concludes with a gracious invitation to stay. For me, Bishop Pagura’s thoughts, quoted below, reflect the essence of what it means to be in "ministry with."

Missionary, Go Home . . . or Stay (by Methodist Bishop Federico J. Pagura (ret.), formerly Bishop of Argentina, and earlier, Bishop of Panama and Costa Rica):

"If you are not able to separate the eternal Word of the Gospel from the cultural molds in which you carried it to these lands:

Missionary, go home.

If you are not able to identify with the events, anxieties, and aspirations of those peoples prematurely aged by an unequal struggle:

Missionary, go home.

If your allegiance and fidelity to your nation of origin are stronger than loyalty and obedience to Jesus Christ:

Missionary, go home.

If you are not able to love and respect as equals those whom once you came to evangelize as "the lost":

Missionary, go home.

If you are not able to rejoice at the entry of new peoples and churches upon a new stage of maturity, independence, and responsibility:

Missionary, go home:

For it is time to go home.

But if you are ready to bear the risks and pains of this hour of birth which our peoples are experiencing, if you begin to celebrate with them the happiness of sensing that the Gospel is proclamation and affirmation of hope and liberation which are already transforming history, if you are ready to give more of your life in the service of these peoples who are awaking, then:

Stay! There is much to do."

If you are interested in learning about the extraordinary life of Bishop Pagura you may start with this Tribute to Pagura.

The Rev. Ronald Whitlatch is a missionary with the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church. Since August of 2012, Ron has been serving the annual conferences of the Northeastern Jurisdiction as mission interpreter.


Image of Bishop Federico Pagurais is courtesy of web site.  


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