GEMN celebrates 20th anniversary

The Global Episcopal Mission Network (GEMN) celebrated its 20th anniversary at the 2015 Annual Global Mission Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, May 6-8. GEMN is the largest independent mission network in the Episcopal Church and consists of dioceses, churches, organizations and individuals committed to global mission engagement and connecting people through mission. The 20th anniversary banquet was sponsored by the Diocese of Southern Ohio as a tribute to Southern Ohio’s role in establishing GEMN. The Rt. Rev. Herbert Thompson and Ruth Jones, as well as the bishop and members of the Diocese of New York were instrumental leaders during the organization’s early years in the early 1990s.

The conference theme, Proclaiming God’s Peace Through Mission, was addressed by three keynote speakers: The Rev. Canon Dr. Titus Pressler, pastor, scholar, missionary to Zimbabwe and Principal-in-exile of Edwardes College in Peshawar, Pakistan; The Rt. Rev. Gayle Harris, Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of Massachusetts, who has a strong relationship with the Diocese of Jerusalem and has led numerous diocesan pilgrimages to Israel and Palestine; and The Rt. Rev. Santosh Marray, Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Alabama and a convert from Hinduism. He has the distinction of being the first West Indian of East Indian ancestry to be elected and consecrated bishop in the Anglican Communion.

Based on his personal experience in Peshawar, Pressler shared his insights on Christian mission in a Muslim context during his plenary address, Rubbish of the World: Cruciform Mission Amid Muslim Pressure. Some of his memorable points included:

  • “Difference is dangerous. The world is dying of differences over genocide, sexuality, religion, etc. . . . yet difference defines mission.”
  • “Standing with the oppressed Christian minority is critical.” “If our ‘solidarity’ stops at the border of danger, how authentic is it?”
  • “We major in money but minor in relationship. We need to major in relationship and minor in money.”
  • “As Anglicans, we need to possess a convinced Christian stance, but be open to God’s leading and enlargement. This equips us to be reconcilers over these boundaries. . . [we have] the Anglican opportunity to stand between danger and hope.”

In her address, Encountering God in the Manifesto of Justice, Harris challenged us to look with new eyes on the realities of our Anglican brothers and sisters living in Palestine and throughout the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.

Marray spoke on Mission Imperatives: A Bridge to Peace and Reconciliation in Anglican Witness. He described the unique gifts and role of Anglicans in global peace building and reconciliation. Marray reminded us that we are “mission practioners, not theorists” in the process of building bridges to peace and reconciliation.

The theme of Proclaiming God’s Peace Through Mission continued to be developed in over 17 workshops on a variety of topics. These ranged from how to organize, budget for and fund a mission trip, to a faith-based response to sexually trafficked youth, mission in a Muslim society and empowering people through asset-based community development. A visit to the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site emphasized mission opportunity close to home.

As part of its program offerings, GEMN conducts a two-part Global Mission Formation Program. Upon completing the program, a participant has explored the theological implications of mission, read several books on mission, engaged in fieldwork and completed two half-day formation program sessions. Canon Anne Reed and Mother Abby Flemister attended a formation program seminar prior to the conference.

Hear I am Send MeOne conference attendee reflected on his conference experience. “I wanted to say thanks for all your work on the GEMN gathering. It was my first, but will not be my last. I was particularly impressed with the three keynote speeches, and the quality of the workshops was undeniably high as well. As I flew home, I thought about the new understandings and information I now have regarding global mission. Our world is complicated and we often hear more about the differences and the conflicts than we do about what unites us. With global mission – working along with our sisters and brothers, we can approach our differences and minimize them. That all takes knowledge and understanding and GEMN is certainly a good support of that.”

Looking for a way to live out your faith and make a difference? GEMN wants to give you the tools you need for global mission. Check us out on GEMN.org. Also, some of our GEMN trainers will be visiting the diocese on Sept. 26 to assist with the Mission Conference. Come join us!

Mooydeen Frees is a retired deacon and serves as a board member and treasurer for the Global Episcopal Mission Network. Contact her at mfrees1234@gmail.com.