In April, the Diocese of Ohio sent three representatives to the Global Episcopal Mission Network (GEMN) conference. It was an enriching experience, and not just because it was held in the Dominican Republic. The GEMN network creates a space for people to exchange ideas and best practices, offer global mission education, and provide resources to those who are exploring their call to engage in mission. The conference was three days of just that— learning, sharing, and building relationships with people from all over the denominational church.
The theme of this year’s conference was “Sharing Jesus: Mutual Witness in Global Mission.” About 120 people attended, and the whole conference was conducted in both English and Spanish. The Rev. Stephanie Spellers, Canon to the Presiding Bishop for Evangelism, Reconciliation, and Stewardship of Creation, urged us to examine what “Sharing Jesus” really looks like in our lives and ministries. The Presiding Bishop’s office defines evangelism as seeking, naming, and celebrating Jesus’ loving presence in ALL people, and inviting everyone to more. Spellers reminded us that evangelism by being in relationship isn’t enough— it has to include an invitation into the family of God. We promise in our Baptismal Covenant to “proclaim in word and example the Good News of God in Christ.” Sometimes words are necessary in preaching the gospel. We practiced this by exchanging stories with a partner and then pointing out where we see God in our own stories and theirs. We all seek love, freedom, forgiveness, and abundant life— practicing talking about where we see God and how our lives have been impacted by church is how we can evangelize.
Bishop Griselda Delgado del Carpio of Cuba shared about building the Church during the post-revolution years in Communist Cuba. She emphasized the Cuban Church’s efforts to integrate gospel proclamation with the social and economic needs of Cubans today. Bishop Griselda shared with us how the church can provide stability, hope, and community in social instability and vulnerability. She led the church in both responding to physical needs through service, and spiritual needs through love.
Eighteen workshops addressed many different topics under Global Mission and Evangelism. Kasey Vanden Bosch, who was part of the Diocese of Ohio team that brought “Happening” to the youth in Belize, attended a workshop called “A Connected World: Digital Evangelism in a Global Context.” She learned about how social media can be a part of mission and service, particularly around story telling. Understanding our church’s identity, goals, and values can then lead us into sharing our story and how we see God at work in the world and in our lives.
As one not necessarily called to global mission work, I was a little hesitant as to how useful I would find this experience. In fact, I learned a TON. I really appreciated that the community gathered was absolutely founded on mutuality— for the most part, conversations did not fall into the trap of “toxic charity” or “experts” from developed countries teaching developing countries how to do ministry. We learned a lot from each other, especially around evangelism and really hitting the streets to be the Church outside of our walls. Most of these stories, skills, and resources were not tied to global missionary work. They were things I can come back and use in my own church and neighborhood— things that people are doing in their churches and neighborhoods across all kinds of countries and contexts.
The next GEMN conference will be held in Indianapolis April 29- May 1, 2020, with the theme “Earthkeeping: Creation Care in Global Mission.” This relevant and vital topic will sure to spur great conversations and inspire action as we continue to share our stories across the denominational church— I hope you will consider learning more about this great community of missioners, ministers, and yes… evangelists!