What a privilege it was to join last week with such a distinguished roster of speakers to address the topic, “Faithful Mission in a New Age,” at the Presbyterian Heritage Center in Montreat, N.C. The lively lecture series was sponsored by Columbia Theological Seminary, Montreat Conference Center, the Presbyterian Heritage Center, and the Adult Summer Club Program at Montreat.
Being at Montreat, there was of course a lot of energy and interest around the subject of mission, as the Presbyterian retreat center has long been a home and gathering place for active and retired PC(USA) mission workers, many of whom were commissioned there during Montreat’s more than 100-year history. In fact, in a recent story by the Presbyterian News Service, the conference center’s new president, the Rev. Pete Peery, recalled that his uncle, a missionary in China, was commissioned there.
The session I led last Wednesday followed the first two days’ speakers, Darrell Guder, academic dean of Princeton Theological Seminary and Bruce Reyes-Chow, moderator of the 218th General Assembly of the PC(USA). On Thursday and Friday, James Cogswell, who served as a missionary to Japan and as director for various international mission programs of the PCUS and for the National Council of Churches, and Erskine Clarke, professor emeritus of American religious history at Columbia seminary, were the featured presenters. Their lecture titles, subjects and experiences made the weeklong series a veritable feast.
In my own highly interactive session, “Patterns of Global Mission – Past, Present, and Future,” we spoke of eras, or modes of mission – the centralized mode in which international mission was done primarily by the General Assembly and the more recent independent mode in which congregations, presbyteries, groups and individuals are engaging directly with international partners, para-church organizations and their own initiatives. Each mode has advantages and disadvantages. We are seeing now in the church a move to a more interdependent mode, of which the Dallas mission consultation’s Invitation to Expanding Partnership in God’s Mission was a significant expression. Our World Mission organization is responding by helping to Equip the Church for Mission with a new Mission Crossroads interactive website, the encouragement of mission networks, and more.
Participants in the Montreat session dreamed with me of how a Time Magazine cover story about Presbyterian world mission might be titled in the year 2015. “Mission Possible” was one response! May it be so with God’s help!