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Mission summit points to church expansion

The Revs. ‹llas Tankler and Patrick Friday sing during the first-ever United Methodist Mission Initiatives Summit sponsored by the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. UMNS photos by Russ and Mary Olsson.

By John Nuessle*
April 25, 2008 | PLANO, Texas (UMNS)

The St. Andrew United Methodist Choir performs at the Mission Initiatives summit April 17-18 in Plano, Texas.

The hymn "How Great Thou Art," sung in 10 languages, was the faith-filled affirmation of the first-ever United Methodist Mission Initiatives Summit.

Bishop Hans Všxby of Moscow, head of the Eurasia Episcopal Area, began the hymn about the awesome wonder of God in Swedish, the language in which it was written. He was then joined by voices in nine other languages found within the global United Methodist Church.

Sponsored by the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, the April 17-18 summit brought together 300 people to celebrate new ministries of evangelism and church expansion through 13 initiatives on four continents.

They shared stories of faith and renewal and built bridges among 13 mission initiatives in Asia, Africa, Russia and the Baltic region, Central America and the network of In Mission Together in South Central Europe and the Balkans.

The initiatives and support networks have emerged over the last two decades, in large part because areas of the world formerly closed to missionaries were opened with the fall of Soviet communism and the relaxation of restrictions on mission outreach in other parts of the world.

‘New synergy’

The Plano gathering, hosted by St. Andrews United Methodist Church, was the first to bring together representatives of church-growth efforts extending from Mongolia to Honduras met to celebrate faith, compare notes and face the future together.

"We are creating a completely new synergy here -- people representing different networks meeting together in an amazing atmosphere," said the Rev. ‹llas Tankler, a Global Ministries staff executive for Europe.

Dick Arnold, a layman from Virginia promoting In Mission Together, noted that "the joining of voices from around the world in worship and song was a powerful message that we are a global church."

The Rev. Mike Slaughter of Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church speaks to 300 people celebrating evangelism and church expansion on four continents
at the first-ever United Methodist Mission Initiatives.

The summit also linked representatives with United Methodist Volunteer In Mission teams that have gone to particular initiative countries through workshops focused on each initiative.

The Board of Global Ministries, which launched the initiatives, provides a coordinator for each effort and the partnership networks that form around each. The initiatives are in Cameroon and Senegal in Africa; Cambodia, Central Asia, Mongolia, Nepal and Southeast Asia (Laos, Thailand and Vietnam) in Asia; Lithuania, Latvia and Russia (including Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine) in Europe; and Honduras in Central America. In Mission Together, a related emphasis, covers South Central Europe and the Balkans.

Missional churches

Jim Burris, an architect from Kentucky who coordinates the Honduras Initiative, pointed out that "when your church becomes a missional church, it will be a community of faith full of life, growth and joy, being challenged to fulfill the Great Commission with more intensity, more determination and more commitment."

The Rev. Mike Slaughter, pastor of the Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church of Tipp City, Ohio, gave moving and practical examples of how participation in the global ministries of the whole church can radiate from a local congregation. His congregation has worked with the mission agency on a project in Sudan.

The Rev. Patrick Friday, director of the Global Ministries In Mission Together program and summit coordinator, said he appreciated the testimonies of new church leaders whose lives have been transformed by the initiatives. "The United Methodist connection is alive and strong in the areas of pioneer evangelism and church growth represented in the mission initiatives," Friday said.

*Nuessle is a staff executive with the Evangelization and Church Growth Unit, United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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