Did you know that the Dominican Republic is part of the Episcopal Church USA? So are Cuba, Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras, the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, Venezuela, and the Virgin Islands. We are a Church beyond the borders of our States, in mission together “to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ” (BCP, p. 855).
In April, the Rev. David Kendall-Sperry (St. Peter’s Delaware), Ann Sabo (Executive Assistant to the Bishop, and the Rev. Lee Anne Reat (Canon for Formation) had the privilege of representing our diocese at the annual Global Episcopal Mission Network (GEMN) conference in Boca Chica, Dominican Republic. We gathered with our sisters and brothers from the broader Episcopal Church as we heard the Rev. Stephanie Spellers relate the Way of Love to global mission and the Rt. Rev. Griselda Delgado del Carpio, Bishop of Cuba, tell the inspiring story of the Episcopal Church in Cuba. We learned best practices for participation in global mission through workshops and displays created by students at the diocesan school. We visited both established and emerging congregations in the DR. And we were immersed in Dominican culture through food, dance and worship.
Much of the conference focused on Best Practices in global mission – how to be in relationship with congregations, dioceses and organizations that fully respect and utilize the gifts of talents of ALL participants in the relationship. We have all heard of the unfortunate results of a “big brother” attitude to mission. One example we heard was of a group from the States traveling to Haiti to assist with hurricane relief. They had t-shirts printed with “Bringing the Light of Christ to Haiti.” As if the light of Christ wasn’t present already or that the US team was in possession of something their Haitian hosts were not! A well-intentioned gesture that missed the mark and created a “we have it – you don’t” divide.
We will share more on best practices in the coming months, but here is a list of just a few of the guidelines offered at the GEMN conference:
- Always work with local churches and with the blessing of the diocesan bishop
- Begin from the point of view that everyone in the relationship has gifts and talents to offer. Relationship building is what it’s all about. Our congregations may have some significant resources to offer others, but others have equally significant resources to offer us.
- Enter mission opportunities with the goal of transformation, never dependency. Asset-Based Community Development tools and strategies are especially helpful here, as is Robert Lupton’s book Toxic Charity.
- Short term mission trips without a commitment to long term relationships miss opportunities for spiritual and community transformation. Plan for mutual visiting, inviting your companions to visit you and see the love of God active in your community. Seek their wisdom in transforming your congregation.
For additional information on GEMN go to www.gemn.org. Another helpful resource is the book Doing Good…Says Who? Stories from Volunteers, Nonprofits, Donors, and Those Trying to Help by Connie Newton and Fran Early.
Our primary purpose in attending the conference was to gain insights that might help us deepen global mission thinking in our congregations and in the diocese. Ann, David, and Lee Anne have completed Year 1 of a two-year Global Mission Formation program. Our formation project is to assess the interest in forming a representative group from the diocese to act as a resource for congregations participating in global mission. If sufficient interest is expressed, next steps would be to form the group and outline its purpose and activities. If you are interested in sharing in this work, please contact David Kendall-Sperry at firstname.lastname@example.org, Ann Sabo at email@example.com or Canon Reat at firstname.lastname@example.org.