Registration is continuing for the churchwide Global Mission Conference that will be held May 3-5 at St. Mark’s Church in Tampa, Florida. The conference theme is ‘Mission: Journey into Healing.
And registration continues for the Mission Formation Programthat will precede the conference, May 2-3. The program is highly recommended for the background it offers in biblical mission, mission history and theology, companionship guidelines, cultural sensitivity and practical networking.
The two conference hotels have extended their discounted rates to April 7 and 9, so this is an ideal time to make your arrangements. Conference and registration information are here.
But you may be wrestling with questions:
Why attend the Global Mission Conference?
It’s difficult to exaggerate how much world mission in the Episcopal Church has diversified and expanded over the past decades. It used to be that the church’s global mission was carried out almost exclusively by the centralized offices and agencies of the Episcopal Church such as the Domestic & Foreign Missionary Society, Episcopal Relief & Development, and the United Thank Offering. But since the 1970s initiative has fanned out from dioceses through their companionships with dioceses in other parts of the world, and often congregations have developed their own international links. Moreover, a plethora of freestanding mission agencies have been founded, often focused on companionship with people in particular parts of the world.
With this diversification and multiplication, it becomes especially important that global mission activists meet together. Why? So that we can find out what’s happening. So that we can learn from one another. So that we can avoid duplication of effort. So that we can collaborate. Another big reason – to be inspired and filled with joy at the wonderful things God is doing among God’s people here and around the world!
Why meet in person?
Hey, since the onset of the pandemic we’ve all gotten used to meeting electronically! So why meet in person? In organizing the 2023 Global Mission Conference the GEMN Board wrestled with this question. After all, the 2021 conference on Creation Care and the 2022 conference on Women in Mission were held online and were very successful – lots of people attended, people signed in from around the world, and lots of good content was communicated. And GEMN’s Mission Thursdays have likewise attracted large groups of people for outstanding content.
But we’ve found that it’s not easy to develop friendships around mission in large groups online. As we all know, international mission is about relationships – friendships across differences of geography, language, ethnicity and culture. That’s equally true for developing the global mission community within the Episcopal Church. As a community we’re strengthened as we get to know one another, learn about what each other is doing, and become friends around the mission of God.
But rest assured: This year’s conference is also hybrid. It’s possible to attend online as well as in person, yet we encourage in-person attendance if at all possible.
What does healing have to do with mission?
Short answer: Everything!
But here’s a longer answer: God’s mission is multifaceted, and there are multiple ways to approach it, understand it and engage with it. You can see that in the themes of recent Global Mission Conferences: migration in 2016, reconciliation in 2017, connection in 2018, evangelism in 2019, creation care in 2021, women in 2022. Each of these themes focused on a particular facet of God’s mission. No theme tells the whole mission story, but each lifts up a particular piece that’s important.
So, Healing. GEMN has never focused on it before, which is surprising, given how central healing is in scripture. Think of Elisha raising the son of the woman of Shunem and healing Naaman the Syrian of his leprosy. Think of what Isaiah says about the Suffering Servant: ‘By his wounds we are healed.’ Think of the prominence of healing in the ministry of Jesus. Think of how the reconciliation Jesus worked from the cross heals the alienation between humanity and God.
Think also about how healing is a comprehensive theme that we often hear about in the news these days after traumatic events. In the aftermath of school shootings – “Families here are gathered to begin the difficult process of healing.” In the aftermath of police shootings of Black men – “This community is looking for justice, and for healing.” In the aftermath of tornadoes – “In the devastation the tornado brought to this town, people wonder how long it will take to rebuild, and to heal.”
Healing is a deep human longing – physically, personally, communally, societally, spiritually. The logo for the conference highlights healing touch.
So here are questions we need to ponder: In all the multiple ways we engage in God’s mission, how are we participating in God’s work of healing? Even in the physical healing brought by medical mission, what deeper healing is brought to the community? How does poverty alleviation bring healing? How are mission relationships being healed as we recover from the pandemic? How can we work with God to bring healing amid the legacies of racism and colonialism, scourges that historically affected some mission efforts?
That’s why this conference will focus on healing.
Conference details you’ve seen before but, just in case, here they are again!
• Global Mission Advocates appointed by their dioceses receive a half-price discount on the conference fee and the Mission Formation Program fee in order to encourage them to attend with the support of their dioceses.
• Online attendance is also available if you’re not able to attend in person. Check the registration page for details.
• Spanish-English translation will be available.
• Plenary speakers will be Alberto Moreno of the Diocese of Oklahoma on “Healing in the Mission of God: A Theological Perspective”; Rebecca vander Meulen of the J. C. Flowers Foundation on “Healing in Medical Mission and Public Health”; and Walter Brownridge of the Diocese of Vermont on “Healing from the Legacies of Racism and Colonialism.”
• Panels: A panel on “Healing Mission Relationships Post-Covid” will include Christy Wallace of the Dominican Development Group” and Deb Parker of Stand With Iraqi Christians. A panel on “Healing amid Poverty and Deprivation” will include Dale Stanton-Hoyle of Five Talents and Carola von Wrangel of Food for the Poor.
• Networking times will feature opportunities for Haiti-related missioners, medical missioners, Global Mission Advocates and other groups to spend time with one another.
• GEMN’s Annual Meeting will take place after lunch for an hour on Thursday afternoon during the conference. All attendees, especially GEMN members are encouraged to attend. Along with reports and the election of GEMN Board members, GEMN’s revised Bylaws will be presented for approval.
• Exhibits: Attendees are encouraged to bring materials for exhibit at the conference. Please get in touch about details at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Useful to know: Q: Why the noon-to-noon timing of the conference and 1pm-noon timing of the Mission Formation Program? A: Beginning in the middle of the day enables as many people as possible to travel on the morning of the program or the conference and still arrive on time, thus avoiding the extra hotel night that would be needed if we began first thing in the morning! So do try to book your travel to leave home as early as possible on Tuesday for the Formation Program or Wednesday for the conference. We realize that people flying from the far west may need to arrive the night before.