No Center No Periphery: A Regional Approach To Mission
by Mande Muyombo
I look upon all the world as my parish; thus far I mean, that in whatever part of it I am, I judge it meet, right, and my bounden duty to declare, unto all that are willing to hear, the glad tidings of salvation. —John Wesley’s Journal, June 11, 1739
As the General Board of Global Ministries moves to establish a headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, it also seeks to set up regional offices in Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America. These regional offices will provide valuable on-the-ground resources, enabling Global Ministries to be more fully present, regularly engaged, and quickly and easily responsive to the global church and its partners in key world regions.
The theology of our regional structure is based on our sense of mission “from everywhere to everywhere”—while recognizing the shift of Christianity’s center of gravity. Mission used to be thought of as coming from the center (churches in developed countries) and going to the peripheries (people in developing countries). But our sense today is that there isn’t a center anymore—that doing mission lies in mutuality, looking at each other as equal partners and learning from one another. Our heritage from the Wesleyan movement tells us that God’s grace is everywhere and everyone shares in it.
Mission in the Regions
We follow God’s mission and God’s movement—the Missio Dei—through the Holy Spirit. In this sense, the regional office becomes an avenue for Global Ministries not only to strengthen existing partnerships and create new ones but also to learn the best mission practices and facilitate interaction between regions. This structure will bring new perspectives and insights to our work. How can US churches learn from Latin America and what can Africans learn from the Asia Pacific? We are seeking to create space for learning the best mission practices. A regional structure also creates a sense of proximity with our partners.
We recognize that God is at work everywhere in the world. There is always something exciting happening in one region that may very well ignite passion in other places.
Programmatically, the regional offices will help to maximize the church’s impact. Being in closer proximity to the work, staff members can monitor and evaluate programs more effectively, while having the opportunity for more interaction in local contexts. Seeing first-hand how a local faith community is engaging in global mission, staff members can better design programming based on that community’s collective faith experience.
We also recognize that a regional presence allows Global Ministries to better respond to our missionaries in that region, enabling better supervision. Through partnership and proximity, we can create placements that are contextual and responsive to local priorities. This will help us maximize our work, whether it involves recruiting, sending, and supervising missionaries or cultivating placements. All of our programs will expand exponentially thanks to our proximity.
Global Ministries’ work in other areas—such as humanitarian aid, disaster response, global health, and finance and administration—will help us to build capacity for regional partners to work effectively in all of those areas. A regional presence also creates an opportunity for Global Ministries to forge deeper relationships with autonomous Methodist church, UMC, and ecumenical partners.
Initially, we are partnering with The Upper Room—a program of the General Board of Discipleship (Discipleship Ministries)—to open our first regional offices in Argentina and Korea. The Upper Room is concerned with spiritual formation, enabling the two general agencies to work together at both local and regional levels. In fact, Global Ministries becomes a channel to facilitate program work with various United Methodist agencies and other partners, creating an even playing field with no center and no periphery. Mission can be accomplished from everywhere to everywhere because God is at work everywhere.
The Global Ministries/Upper Room office in Latin America will open in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and an Asia-Pacific office will be established in Seoul, South Korea. We are still exploring a number of possible placements for an office in Africa. In Europe, we have a presence in Parnü, Estonia, through a staff member who lives there.
Global Ministries will also maintain a presence in New York City through a United Nations Liaison office. The work United Methodists will do in the regions—as part of our social holiness movement within the Wesleyan tradition—will help advance the United Nations’ sustainable development goals. These goals extend from 2015 to 2030 and involve ending poverty, protecting the planet, and ensuring prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda. Each goal has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years. A staff presence close to the United Nations enables Global Ministries to continue that work as well.
Regional offices are actually catalysts for keeping us connected in mission as a global church. The unit that oversees this work is called “Global Mission Connections.” We accomplish God’s mission by connecting. Actually, Global Ministries exists for this very reason—to connect the church in mission.
The Rev. Dr. Mande Muyombo is executive director of Global Ministries’ new Global Mission Connections unit. Originally from Katanga, DRC, he earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Africa University in Zimbabwe as a Global Ministries’ scholar, followed by a Master in Theology and a doctorate from St. Paul Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri. After returning to DRC, he was appointed by Bishop Ntambo to serve as director of Kamina Methodist University, where he increased the enrollment fivefold during his tenure there.
Copyright New World Outlook magazine, July-August 2016 issue. Used by permission.
Baptizing new members in the United Methodist Church of the CAR. Photo: Courtesy Lucien Dockpa
Adriano Kilende at a Sol Africa meeting in Angola. Photo: Courtesy Adriano Kilende