Conflicting Concepts of Mission
Renew Women's Network
Recently a pastor called to share an experience he had when passing along information to the women of his church regarding some of the questionable activities of the Womens Division. The women responded that they did not support any of those specific things because all of the funds they sent to UMW went for "missions."
Is there a difference in mission perception on the part of the Womens Division and grassroots UM women? We believe there is, and will document that assumption from several sources.
1998 UMW Assembly: The Assembly, held every four years, is a ministry-defining event for the UMW organization. Social justice as mission, devoid of the proclamation of Christs atonement in behalf of humankind, was the pervasive message. Joyce Sohl, Deputy General Secretary of the Womens Division, voiced the mission focus clearly: "If we as UMW diligently pray Gods vision becomes a reality, we will release into our world a profound energy for justice . As agents for Gods vision, we must have a passionate conviction for justice."
"Through the Corridors of Mission" Video: This video is based upon a view of missions through the corridors of history, covering five eras. While somewhat helpful as a general overview of church history, the video is not comprehensive and is biased.
For example, the video stated: "Long after the Medieval Crusades were over, the vestiges of the Crusaders mind continued to haunt mission history in the form of forced conversions of colonized people by white settlers." While some instances of abuse undoubtedly occurred, this statement has the power to condemn genuine mission endeavors that reaped a harvest of lives transformed by Christs redeeming power. That fruit continues as a vibrant third-world church now evangelizing those who evangelized them. Similar statements to this one recur throughout the video.
Mission Study Resources: Many of our Mission Study resources have undermined the authority of Scripture, questioned basic doctrine, and attempted to alter our concept of mission. New Wineskins: Faithful Mission in the 21st Century was one of the 1999/2000 Mission Studies for UM women. This study text failed to identify the distinction between the content of the gospel and the methodology for carrying out mission.
Our reviewer found an apparent absence of commitment to Christ as the worlds only unique savior on the part of some contributors. For example, M. Thomas Thangaraj states, "To place John 14:6 (I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.) in todays multi-religious setting to judge the destinies of people of other religions would be to take it totally out of its context and derive conclusions that are not intended in that verse ."
The National Seminar: This Womens Divisions social justice training program is held every four years. The most recent seminar, held August 14-20, 1999, had a proposed budget of $305,500, with an estimated 137 participants.
The National Seminar epitomizes the Divisions commitment to social justice as its cornerstone of mission. One seminar worship statement read, "We are people hungry for justice, peace, and ecological wholeness." The seminar is an ideal setting to champion social and political issues from a singular perspective.
Mission Today Program: Mission Today is designed to strengthen the view of mission as social justice, and to increase use of Womens Division resources and attendance at Division-sponsored events. Of the 15 criteria for a Mission Today unit, not a single one focuses on evangelism unless you count the one requiring the unit to add at least two new members to its roll. Of the remaining 14 criteria: five relate to use of UMW/WD resources, three encourage involvement in social justice programs, two push for attendance at UMW events, two press for undesignated giving, and two encourage some contact with mission agencies or personnel.
Mission to the Womens Division is the whole of its program ministry, including administration, leadership development and education, political advocacy, social justice engagement, theological study, and ecumenical affiliations. This might explain why the Womens Division budget for Administration and Program for the year 2000 is $8,798,235, while the funds divided between the National and International programs for "mission" is $9,050,102. (These funds should also be tracked).
How most local UMW groups view mission and how the Womens Division views it is different. A careful examination of this difference should create a willingness on the part of United Methodist Women to question activities with which they disagree, and to call for a renewed commitment to a mission perspective that includes the proclamation of the gospel of Christ at its center.
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