From April 8-10, the heads and leaders of our partner provinces, along with representatives from our North American provinces and the Board of World Mission, gathered at Laurel Ridge Camp and Conference Center for a Leadership Summit.
Participants came from our traditional partners: Nicaragua (Superintendent Rev. Cora Antonio and Provincial Board member Rev. Gilberto Molina), Honduras (President Rev. Isai Granwell, Provincial Board member Frank Goff, and Medical Director Dr. Ovelio Lopez), Costa Rica (Chair Dr. Leopold Pixley), Guyana (Chairman Rev. Brinmore Phaul), Eastern-West Indies (Chairman Rev. Dr. Cortroy Jarvis), Newfoundland/Labrador (Chairperson Sarah Jensen), and Western Tanzania (Chairman Rev. John Italazyo). In addition to our traditional partners, one of our mission areas, Cuba, was represented by Rev. Armando Rusindo, current President of the Moravian Church there. Also present were chairs of our North American provinces (Rev. Peter Green, Alaska, Rev. David Guthrie, America South, and Rev. Dr. Betsy Miller, America North) and Board of World Mission members Rt. Rev. Sam Gray, Rev. Judy Ganz, and Loren Jendro.
We opened our gathering with a focus on mutual encouragement (Romans 1:11-12) and did an exercise in asset-mapping and how we might begin to share our resources and capabilitiies with one another. We then moved into discussion of a topic that had been suggested by some of our partners: sustainability.
While our contexts are very different, we found that both North American and global provinces struggle on some level with this issue — the capacity to cover the basic functions of our church, which include an upward focus (worship, prayer), an inward focus (discipleship, pastoring, community life), and an outward focus (evangelism, benevolence, missions).
Jean Johnson of World Mission Associates led our discussion. She reminded us that no church in the early apostolic time required outside funding for its basic operations. The offering for the church in Jerusalem was a one-time collection. And she challenged us to begin to evaluate how we can better use what we have to create what we need, bringing a sense of pride and empowerment to the ministry of the local church.
Sis. Johnson told us that four areas are crucial to move toward sustainability. The first is to gradually wean chronic subsidies and outside funding. The second is to evaluate the structure of one’s ministry in relation to the context in which it exists. Is the structure affordable and sustainable? Are there forms of ministry that fit better with the culture of the people and can be readily reproduced?
The third element toward sustainability is to promote and teach sound principles of stewardship in which people contribute to the ministry from day one. And the fourth is to mobilize the local — encourage bottom-up, community-driven efforts rather than top-down efforts. Jean’s new book, We Are Not the Hero, provides many examples of what has worked and what has not worked in mission environments in attempts to promote growth of indigenous congregations. Additional topics for discussion at the summit were Biblical Principles of Leadership, led by Rev. Dr. Betsy Miller, and Conflict Resolution, led by Rev. David Guthrie.
This was actually not the first gathering of partner provinces. Several gatherings were held under the leadership of Rev. Hampton Morgan, which included the signing of the Barbados Agreement in 2000. This agreement was shared with our current partners and they were amazed that they had not seen it (except the two who had signed it)! We agreed that decisions made at these consultations must not be put on a shelf.
All signed a “Laurel Ridge Agreement” that affirmed the principles of partnership that were outlined in the Barbados Agreement. It pledged we would work together to use what we have to create what we need in our efforts toward sustainability, and covenanted to intentionally pray for each other and the many issues that confront our worldwide church today.
Participants felt that the summit was a worthwhile event for everyone, providing opportunities for fellowship and sharing, for meeting the Board of World Mission, as well as being present in many of the congregations in the Winston-Salem and Bethlehem areas. One participant commented that we were forced to think about the realities in which we live and how we can maintain and strengthen our church in our own context. Bro. Phaul wrote afterwards that “Much has been learnt and would be very beneficial in improving our sustainability, To God be the glory for the great things He has done in and through the Summit’” and Bro. Jarvis echoed his words saying, “I thank God for all of you and for the wonderful fellowship we experienced. The Leadership Summit was quite revealing and enriching. To God be all honour and Glory!”
We are grateful for the donations from UBC in Staten Island, the Larger Life Foundation, Bethlehem Area Moravians, and Salem Congregation, which allowed us to bring in our partners and to hold this important summit. We are also grateful to the Southern Province Mission Society, the Friedland Moravian congregation, Central Moravian Church, the East Hills Moravian Church, and for the many families and congregations in Winston-Salem and Bethlehem who hosted our partners and provided opportunities for them to worship with them and to share their stories. We only regret that not all of our churches could have face-to-face interaction with these brothers and sisters in Christ.
Rev. Judy Ganz is executive director of the Board of World Missions in North America.
From the June/July 2013 Moravian Magazine