12/20/2008

The Episcopal Church is a Missionary Church

With Christmas near at hand and thanksgiving always in order, a note of thanks to the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (DFMS) which is The Episcopal Church acting as a Province in mission. The Episcopal News Service just posted a report on the activities of the DFMS for 2008 and the link to the report (HERE) takes you to all sorts of information about the work of the Church. Go look around.

Here are several areas that particularly interested me:
Take a look at the good work done by The United Thank Offering. Their pages are HERE. In particular look at the grants given in 2008. Here are some highlights:

In 2008 the United Thank Offering Committee received 198 grant applications, totaling $7,923,979.05. The Committee funded 91 grants, totaling $2,401,906.70
The Committee awarded 17 international grants, totaling $782,011.81.
The Committee awarded 4 companion diocesan relationships grants, totaling $84,200.00.
The Committee awarded 70 domestic grants, totaling $1,535,694.90.

The brochure tells several stories taken from the grant process;

This year in the Diocese of Delhi, North India, the UTO granted $59,622.81 to build a vocational training center in Kalimpong. This center will house a comprehensive project that combats cross-border and internal trafficking of women and children in Eastern Himalaya. Experts estimate that in 2008 over 27 million people will be enslaved worldwide, and nearly 20 million of those will be women and children.

In Sri Lanka, in the Diocese of Colombo, the UTO awarded the Estate Community Development project $50,000.00. This funds a sixpassenger van and advocacy-related work for tea plantation workers, including community integration, income generation, networking skills, vocational training skills, children and family skills and health/HIV/AIDS awareness and training. This project will increase the self-sufficiency of the Plantation Estate Community and enhance their ability to increase their standard of living and improve their quality of life.

To the Diocese of Ecuador Central, the UTO is sending $60,000.00 to the Proyecto Educativo el Salvador school to purchase science and language laboratory equipment and build classroom space for grades 9-12."

So here is to the United Thank Offering. There is a three year study of UTO about to get underway. ENS reports on it HERE. As with any study of this sort there is considerable concern about how and why it was called for. The UTO's work is such a long term witness to the possibilities of thanksgiving and mission that I believe the study will issue in greater clarity about the work of UTO and how its work relates to the DFMS as integral to mission. For now, looking at what has been done, and hoping for more, I hope UTO goes on going on.

Elsewhere in the Report, look at the development of new Campus Ministry in the diocese of Honduras, reported by ENS HERE with a slide show HERE and a write up of work by the DFMS Higher Education program HERE.

Also look in the report from the Mission Personnel Office at the list of missionaries HERE and members of the young adult service corps (YASC) HERE. There are 10 YASC members out at any given time, and now more than 60 who have returned from service. There are 67 missionaries serving.

The Report is filled with information about the various ways in which The Episcopal Church is engaged in mission throughout the world.

In all the grumping around in Anglican Land there is the sense that TEC is not about the work of evangelism or witnessing to the Good News in Jesus Christ. The work of UTO, Campus Ministry and Missionaries of this Church, along with the many other efforts of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society say otherwise.

The Purity crowd does not like the fact that the true voice that calls members of TEC to vocation in Christ is not that of the leadership that they malign but the life of common prayer. What forms us is much more likely to be the law of prayer than either the right or wrong interpretation given by this or that faction in the church. The willingness of members of TEC to offer themselves in service, start new ministries or give thankfully is a product of being part of a community of prayer and thanksgiving.

The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society is TEC's primary expression of its collective vocation growing from the Great Thanksgiving.

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for acknowledging the work of the missionaries. I'm always amazed by how many Episcopalians have no idea about the work we missionaries do.

    I am proud to be a missionary of the Episcopal Church, finishing his third three-year term, and I am so proud of the work all my colleagues do throughout the planet.

    Those interested in the work of the missionaries of TEC should get a copy of the DVD "Windows on Mission" which the Mission Personnel department of TEC produced in the year 2006.

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  2. Listen, Mark, the things you list that UTO does are all good things. My family contributes to this fund, and we're happy to do so.

    But what in the world do you mean by: "The Purity crowd does not like the fact that the true voice that calls members of TEC to vocation in Christ is not that of the leadership that they malign but the life of common prayer"?

    Why in the world would "the purity crowd" care about this? I believe most of them actually share in the same life of common prayer (BCP 1979), don't they? Yes, I'm sure they're not happy with the leadership of the church. (I'm definitely not.) But I can't imagine why they would object to whatever it is you think they wouldn't like. I suppose they may not appreciate your interpretation of certain snippets from the Baptismal Covenant. Beyond that, however, I don't follow you at all. Nor can I imagine them objecting to the things you list here as supported by UTO.

    BTW, might I suggest that 67 missionaries doesn't sound like that many? The denomination to which I belonged a decade ago is smaller than this one (or at least it used to be), but supports 796 missionaries. I think perhaps we could do better.

    My personal regards to Padre Mickey, and I wish him success in his service and endeavors.

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  3. BTW, might I suggest that 67 missionaries doesn't sound like that many? ... I think perhaps we could do better

    For once, I agree with RB.

    I don't think that Anglicanism has ever taken missionary work seriously enough.

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  4. RB and BillyD.

    67 Missionaries is not a lot, true. At its hight, when we had a large number of overseas dioceses and domestic missionary districts we had several hundred missionaries. As Puerto Rico, Haiti, The Dominican Republic, Cuba, Mexico, the countries of Central American and the northern tier of countries in South America, and the Philippines, China and Japan in East Asia became national churches with their own leaders and clergy we reduced the numbers of missionaries sent and replace that with grants to help pay for national clergy and workers. We continue to make large grants to overseas dioceses to support those missionaries from within.

    The DFMS continue to get requests for many more missionaries than we can send and I agree we ought to greatly increase the funding for and recruitment of missionaries. At the same time it is important to remember that a missionary may indeed be a national of the country where the person is serving. The "sent" in mission is about the call, not the distance between the called and the place of action. (At least that is what I think.)

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