About Mission Contexts and Relationships
The Mission Contexts and Relationships Program Area analyses the context in which the church is called to mission and builds covenant relationships and mission partnerships to implement the goals of mission. In its evaluative work, it takes account of such factors as culture, religion, history, politics, economics, environment and demographics. It develops Christian ecumenical relations and explores dialogue with people of other faiths.
The Mission Contexts and Relationships Program Area (MCR) is concerned with the contexts in which mission takes place today. These contexts may be local, global, geographical, cultural, ethnic, international, denominational, ecumenical, or any combination of these possibilities. Analyzing and evaluating these contexts requires attention to large trends and small details. Developing and sustaining the relationships needed for creative mission requires sensitivity and patience. Current priorities of MCR include the following:
Building and maintaining databases on all the countries and cultures in which the church is engaged and those where new mission is unfolding.
Conducting regional mission consultations on a global basis involving United Methodist conferences, autonomous Methodist churches, and other mission partners.
Building strong relations between the Board and the annual conferences in the United States.
Providing linkages between the Board and the committees that oversee three churchwide ethnic ministry priorities-the National Hispanic Plan, the Native American Comprehensive Plan, and the Korean National Plan-and resourcing other ethnic ministries.
Facilitating the Persons in Mission program through which the Board provides salary support to partner churches for specific positions filled by indigenous personnel for periods of three years.
Developing leadership for mission.
Supporting ecumenical cooperation.
In 2001, the first of a quadrennial series of six regional consultations took place in Tonga. Representatives of Methodism in the South Pacific explored mission opportunities and challenges as Christianity entered its third millennium. Plans were made for a European consultation, including Russia, that was scheduled for January 2002. Mission strategies emerging from the dialogues will be compiled at the conclusion of the series.
Complementing the Persons in Mission program, which supports people serving in their own countries, is the International Persons in Mission plan. For example, this allows people from autonomous churches in Latin America and the Caribbean to serve immigrant congregations within the United States. The Board has worked with the Florida, New England, and Greater New Jersey annual conferences in developing congregations within Portuguese-speaking Brazilian communities. Five new churches, with a total of 600 congregants, are strengthened by International Persons in Mission from the Methodist Church of Brazil.
The nurture of new congregations and leadership development are strong components of the Korean National Plan and the Korean Mission Pastors' Initiative. Particular attention in 2000-2001 was directed to the enhancement of mission and ministries of the next generation of the Korean American community. Leadership development is also a prominent part of the relationships with Hispanic American, Native American, and African American constituencies. In 2001, MCR worked with the Women's Division in providing opportunities for a dozen racial/ethnic persons to receive training in church-related community economic development. The Crusade Scholars program and other educational grants to individuals enhance skills and abilities beneficial to mission.
MCR provides program support and funding for the Alaska Missionary Conference and the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference. It assists the Rio Grande Conference and the autonomous Methodist Church of Puerto Rico in seeking higher levels of self-support without compromising their ministries. In the quadrennium to date, nine Rio Grande congregations volunteered to work with the Board in an effort to attain self-sufficiency within three years.
The program area facilitates a Bilateral Mission Advisory Committee that coordinates ministry and mission along the U.S.-Mexico border, working with the United Methodist conferences north of the Rio Grande and the Methodist Church of Mexico to the south. MCR joined with the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico in attempts to halt permanently the U.S. Navy's practice bombing of the island of Vieques.
Evaluation of mission contexts and the building of strong missional relationships entail particular attention to issues of justice, empowerment, and healing. MCR has responsibility for the Restorative Justice Ministries program of The United Methodist Church, which is particularly concerned with repairing breaches and promoting just outcomes in the criminal-justice system. The empowerment of women, children, and young people is another major concern within the area of human relationships.
Ecumenical relations significantly extend the mission commitments of United Methodists. Such interactions are not limited to social services but also include mission evangelism, education, justice and peace, interreligious dialogue, and social and economic development.