World Mission committees hear range of resolutions concerning colonialism, migration and support for Iraqi Christians

By Shireen Korkzan and Melodie Woerman
Posted Jun 6, 2024

Martha Gardner, chair of the Standing Commission on World Mission, testifies during a hearing of General Convention’s World Mission committees June 5. Photo: Zoom screenshot

[Episcopal News Service] General Convention’s World Mission committees on June 5 discussed and voted on seven proposed resolutions addressing issues ranging from tackling “the colonial mindset” to supporting Christians and other vulnerable communities in Iraq.

Ten people testified, many of them on multiple resolutions. Legislative committees include parallel committees of deputies and of bishops, which, though distinct, typically meet and deliberate together but vote separately.

Resolution A080 would create a task force on “countering the colonial mindset.” Martha Gardner, chair of the Standing Commission on World Mission, said the resolution was needed because many well-meaning individuals, congregations and dioceses engage in short-term mission trips “that are about doing for the people they visit and not doing with.”

Other members of the standing commission said the goal of the resolution was to create a curriculum for The Episcopal Church similar to that of Sacred Ground, a film- and readings-based dialogue series on race that is grounded in faith, that would help inform Episcopalians the impact of a colonial mindset in the church’s past and present life and ministries.

Committee members suggested that populating this task force only with academics who can write the curriculum would leave out other stakeholders, including people in dioceses outside the continental United States, youth and young adults, and mission partners. Later in the meeting, the resolution was amended to include those groups in the task force.

The requested budget to implement the resolution is $150,000.

Raising awareness of The Episcopal Church as part of the Anglican Communion is the goal of Resolution A083, Gardner said, so church members better understand “the incredible opportunities that being a member of the Anglican Communion offers us.” The Rev. Titus Presler, executive director of the Global Episcopal Mission Network, spoke in favor of the resolution and said it comes “a time when alienations within the communion are hardening into fixed positions, and some Anglicans or turning not toward one another but away from each other over disagreements about human sexuality.”

Resolution A085 would provide additional support for the global mission advocates program. That program was created by General Convention in 2022 and encourages every diocese, jurisdiction, seminary and local ministry school to appoint a person to help promote the study and use of the guiding principles for world mission.

Gardner said there currently are 55 advocates who meet monthly online and who met once in-person in April. Presler said GEMN had provided $10,000 of the $50,000 allocated to it by the 2022 General Convention to support the advocates’ gathering.

The resolution asks for $75,000 in the coming triennium, primarily to fund one in-person meeting, Gardner said.

Resolution A087 seeks to gather data about how entities of The Episcopal Church are responding to the calls of the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals that call for a global partnership to end poverty, improve health and education, reduce inequality, spur economic growth and tackle climate change. Gardner said that the church’s role as a member of the U.N.’s civil society — The Episcopal Church has “special consultative status” on the U.N.’s Economic and Social Council – makes it important that this data be collected.

A substitute for the resolution was introduced and spelled out that the data-gathering task would fall to Lynnaia Main, The Episcopal Church’s Representative to the United Nations, along with engagement with the U.N. It also added a funding request of $25,000.

Resolution A088 encourages all Episcopal dioceses, parishes and organizations engaging in or considering global mission in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America, the Caribbean or the Middle East to connect and consult with the Office of Global Partnerships – including regional partnership officers – as mission partners.

The Rev. Grey Maggiano, a member of the standing commission, spoke in favor of the resolution and said it aligned with A080 and its concerns about colonialism in mission. It’s important that groups across The Episcopal Church consult with the Office of Global Partnerships, he said, because doing so could prevent “some bad mistakes” and headaches, but also could avoid harming the church’s ability to do mission.

Resolution D026 addresses Episcopal Migration Ministries and how it engages with refugee resettlement on behalf of The Episcopal Church. Episcopal Migration Ministries is one of 10 resettlement agencies in the United States along with Global Refuge, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and others.

Those resettled all have been designated as refugees – defined as those who have fled their countries to escape conflict, violence, or persecution and have sought safety in another country. Although the terms migrants and asylum-seekers are often used interchangeably, not all migrants are asylum-seekers. The latter are people seeking protection from persecution or violence but who haven’t yet been legally recognized as refugees.

This resolution would expand EMM’s reach to include the ability to aid other categories of immigrants and requests $200,000 so the agency could undertake this work.

A proposed substitute resolution made even clearer who EMM potentially could assist: asylum-seekers, undocumented people, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA recipients and other Dreamers, those with Temporary Protected Status, and others with no status or pathway to citizenship.

The Rev. Leeann Culbreath, a deputy from the Diocese of Georgia and a facilitator for EMM’s Episcopal Migration Response Network, described how in 2017 she was starting a ministry centered on a migrant detention facility in Georgia and wanted guidance and support from others doing this work. That’s when she learned that EMM works only to resettle refugees.

The network now brings together people working with those seeking asylum and people in detention. She said, “Without funding to build programs and consistent support that’s not contingent on funding from the federal government, the church will continue to underutilize its gifts and opportunities.”

The final resolution, D043, urges Episcopalians to help support Christians in Iraq, with a special commendation for the ministry of St. George’s Anglican Church in Baghdad. The Rev. Bill Schwartz, who served as a missionary in the Dioceses of Cyprus and the Gulf for more than 35 years, said that Christians in Iraq aren’t afraid of persecution because that is part of their history. “The problem now is that there is no hope for the future for Christians,” he said, since “Iraq is old news.” This resolution “strengthens the hands of those who are working to support Iraqi Christians and to help them rebuild their society.”

The deputies’ and bishops’ committees then made their recommendations on the resolutions:

  • A080 – adoption of the substitute resolution
  • A083 – adoption of the resolution with amendments
  • A085 — adoption of the resolution with amendments
  • A087 — adoption of the substitute resolution
  • A088 — adoption of the resolution
  • D026 — adoption of the substitute resolution
  • D043 — adoption of the resolution

Final action on all these resolutions will be taken by the 81st General Convention when it meets in Louisville, Kentucky, June 23-28.

— Shireen Korkzan is a reporter and assistant editor for Episcopal News Service based in northern Indiana. She can be reached at Melodie Woerman is a freelance reporter based in Kansas.