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Episcopal Diocese organizes for mission
to join in ending hunger and poverty

The recent Episcopal Diocesan Convention on “Recipes for Mission” set the stage for the Spokane diocese’s new Organizing for Mission team to join in a national plan to engage Episcopalians in ending global hunger and poverty.

Bishop Jim Waggoner, Jr., told delegates that growth of congregations requires equipping people for mission so they can step out and change lives.

Just as each individual is called to discern God’s call, he said, the diocese also needs to discern its unique call.

“We have to work together to change the landscape for those who are hungry, homeless and hopeless, and for children in some local schools, where 50 to 90 percent of children go to bed hungry,” Jim said.  “It’s unacceptable.  We need to change the landscape.”

Devon Anderson
The Rev. Devon Anderson

Through the Organizing for Mission team, he hopes the diocese will transform communities and mobilize people through “living, loving relationships.” 

For the convention’s closing service at the Cathedral of St. John, Donn Morgan, keynote speaker and professor of Old Testament at Church Divinity School of the Pacific, spoke on the Gospel of Luke account of Jesus reading from Isaiah to define his mission—and the church’s mission—as “bringing good news to the poor, proclaiming freedom for prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, releasing the oppressed, and proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor.”

“As communities of faith, we are to shape that mission to our contexts,” he said.

While it may seem hard, Donn reassured that “God will do most of this, and invites us to join the throng of folks who have paved the way in mission.  The agenda is huge, but our part is small. 

“Many communities are already involved in mission and equipped to transform their landscapes of need into freedom and wholeness,” he said.  “We are always called to this mission.”

Pondering about mission as he walked down the street one day, Donn said he raised his head and looked at a person coming toward him in a bright, red T-shirt.  On it was a Greek symbol and the words:  “Just do it!”

Helping the Diocese of Spokane’s Organizing for Mission Team develop leaders and equip people for mission will be the Rev. Devon Anderson, a priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Minneapolis and national director of Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation.

In a workshop, she told of equipping leaders around local-to-global mission efforts, related to the Episcopal Church USA’s commitment to promote the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) adopted by the United Nations in 2000.

The focus of the goals and the church’s mission is on ending the “staggering, rising global poverty of people living on less than $1 a day—the bottom billion,” Devon said.

The eight goals are eradicating extreme poverty, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, containing HIV/AIDS and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability, and creating global partnerships for development.

“If every country gave 0.7 percent of their Gross National Product, the goals would be accomplished by 2015,” she said.  “The United States gives just 0.2 percent of its GNP to the MDGs.

“The heads of more than 194 countries signed on to the goals and are developing partnerships between the haves and have-nots,” she said.  “The plan is to work from the bottom up, not top down.”

Internationally, the Episcopal Church—as other churches—has organic, community-to-community, diocese-to-diocese, bishop-to-bishop relationships, Devon pointed out.

“The Gospel calls us to charity and justice,” she said.  “The two go hand-in-hand.  Justice requires changing systems.  When governments are unstable, it’s hard to funnel funds through them, but churches have connections with churches in communities around the world.”

In 2001, the Episcopal House of Bishops, meeting two weeks after Sept. 11, saw the crisis as a call for reconciliation, she said.  In face of the anger, the bishops discussed how to minister and lead people to act without retribution, seeing the attack as a call for reconciliation and healing in the world.

“Reconciliation means unity, oneness, balance, listening and speaking truth,” Devon said.

The 2003 Episcopal General Convention in Minneapolis held a forum on global reconciliation, recognizing that Christians can be agents of reconciliation by engaging global poverty.

“Globally we have everything we need to eradicate it—technology, money, resources, communities and networks,” she told delegates.  “We need the will.”

Devon remembers people, who packed St. Mark’s Cathedral in Minneapolis, flowing out of the Cathedral and into the General Convention to pass a resolution that called every level of the Episcopal Church to give 0.7 percent for some expression of the UN Millennium Development Goals.

From that convention, Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation formed to work with Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) to start an MDG fund for the 40 countries where it already works.  The goal is to raise $6 billion.

Projects underway include the ERD Nets for Life providing mosquito nets to protect children from malaria.

By the 2006 General Convention, 82 percent of dioceses gave 1 percent to MDGs and the national church gave 0.7 percent, for a total of $1 million.

At the 2009 General Convention in Anaheim, the 0.7 percent had been eliminated from the proposed budget with other major cuts, but it was restored, Devon said.

Spending on global poverty was seen as optional in the economic downturn, with people in the national church losing jobs, retirement incomes down and strain paying diocesan staff,” she said, “but we restored it through efforts of the Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation, the ERD, Episcopal Church Women and young adults.  While we cut $23 million in church center staff and programs, we restored $800,000 for the MDGs.  We would not forsake our commitment to people who are barely living. 

“Mission is not an extra activity.  It’s the reason the church exists,” Devon asserted.

A UN Summit in September on the Millennium Development Goals found that despite the economic downturn there have been some advances, including an historic drop in childhood mortality because of mosquito nets.

“Collective giving and actions have global implications for the lives of other human beings,” Devon said. 

Given that the extent of the problem can cause inertia, she said the Washington, D.C., office is increasing efforts to equip people to make systemic changes, keeping Episcopalians informed of bills to create policies that make a difference.

Devon led a pilot project in Organizing for Mission in Minnesota, helping eight congregations build leadership, organizing people to talk about investing in MDG projects.

“We took $14,000 and turned it into $100,000, increasing the annual stewardship of churches.  We drew new people, people interested in coming to churches that were dealing with the enormous world problems.  We trained 50 new leaders, quadrupled giving and revitalized congregations.

“People want to be part of mission,” she said, “and we find that money follows mission.”

The Spokane Diocese’s Organizing for Mission Leadership Team will introduce ways congregations can empower people to share God through a model for mission that excites, encourages and trains people to act on human need in local communities and worldwide.

The team will engage Episcopalians in a 2011 Lenten Mission Initiative to address hunger by committing 0.7 percent of their incomes to local and global hunger ministries.

Half of gifts received will go to El Hogar Project’s Episcopal Agricultural School and Farm in Honduras, leaving half for parish teams to use for local projects.

For information, call 624-3191.