Global Ministries

The United Methodist Church

Connecting the Church in Mission

United Methodist Agency Hosts Planning Session for 2018 World Mission Conference

Elliott Wright*

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Bishop Dr Geevarghese Mor Coorilos, from the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, Metropolitan of Niranam in India. 

Atlanta, Georgia, January 11, 2017—Major reflection on Christian mission theology and practice takes place in an increasingly ecumenical context that explores the broad historical, political, social, and economic forces influencing all churches locally and globally.   

Pivotal in this process is a series of international conferences dating back to the first World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1910 and will continue in March 2018 in Arusha, Tanzania. The upcoming event’s sponsor, the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism of the World Council of Churches (WCC), will hold a detailed planning meeting for Arusha January 12–17 in Atlanta at the headquarters for General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church.

“It is significant that we should host this meeting,” said Thomas Kemper, chief executive of Global Ministries, the worldwide mission, humanitarian relief and development agency of the denomination with personnel, projects, and partners in more than 125 countries. “Our work has been profoundly influenced over the years by the succession of world mission conferences and WCC papers on Christian mission and evangelism, and I think that we have made, and will continue to make, contributions to ecumenical mission theology and work.” Kemper is one of 25 members of the commission.

The 2018 conference theme is “Moving in the Spirit: Called to Transforming Discipleship,” which reflects the direction of a 2012 WCC statement “Together Toward Life: Mission and Evangelism in Changing Landscapes.” That statement emphasizes the concept of “mission from the margins,” which recognizes that mission is no longer a matter of “sending” missionaries from Europe and North America to the Global South and East but is a calling and response involving all Christians.

“The idea of ‘mission from the margins,’” Kemper noted, “has helped us to explain to United Methodists why we say mission is from everywhere to everywhere. Increasingly numbers of our missionaries and young adult Global Mission Fellows are from outside of the United States. Enthusiasm for mission is especially high among young United Methodists in parts of Africa.”

“Mission from the Margins” is the topic of a public address and panel discussion set for Friday night, January 13, at Grace United Methodist United Methodist Church from 7 to 9 p.m. The church and Global Ministries offices are located at 458 Ponce de Leon Avenue NE, Atlanta. The keynote speaker is the Rev. Dr. Deenabandhu Manchala, the Asia Area executive of the United Church of Christ. He formerly taught at a theological seminary in India. Panel participants include scholars from Great Britain, India, and seminaries in Atlanta and Chicago in the United States. (For more information on the January 13 event read this story.)

The Commission on World Mission and Evangelism (formerly International Missionary Council) is a major unit of the WCC, which has some 350 Protestant, Orthodox, and Anglican member churches in 110 countries. However, among the commission’s 25 full members (commissioners) are representatives from the Roman Catholic, Pentecostal, and Independent churches that are not WCC members. Bishop Geevarghese Mor Coorilos of the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church of India, commission chair, is among the panelists at the January 13 event.

“The commission’s breadth of participation makes it highly relevant to issues of historical theological difference, conversion, religious freedom, and social ministry collaboration as those that arise in mission and evangelism today,” Kemper said.

The commission, headquartered in World Council offices in Geneva, Switzerland, engages in a range of activities. It has a number of regional working groups and does special studies and consultations on such topics as multicultural ministries, church work with persons with disabilities, teaching evangelism, urban evangelism, relationships with Pentecostals, youth work, and racism and xenophobia.

The former International Missionary Council formally united with the World Council in 1961. The WCC was launched in 1948, having been projected prior to the outbreak of World War II. The current Commission on World Mission and Evangelism meets every 18 months. Mission and evangelism conferences are usually held between WCC assemblies, which are convened every eight years, the last having been in 2013 in South Korea. The Rev. Dr. Jooseop Keum of the Presbyterian Church Korea is staff director of the commission.

Elliott Wright, Information Consultant for general board of global ministries.