The Executive Committee of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board is recommending that this summer’s 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) approve two church-wide initiatives focusing on education and missional living.
The two proposals, “Educate a Child, Transform the World” and “Living Missionally,” would allow the mission agency to serve as a catalyst for church-wide movements that could take many different forms.
“A vision has got to be something that everyone can find their place within it,” said the Rev. Roger Dermody, the mission agency’s deputy executive director for mission. “We’re not defining that place.”
The Educate a Child initiative focuses on lack of good educational opportunities as a root cause of poverty and aims to celebrate the PC(USA)’s rich history of providing and supporting education. The church-wide initiative aims to support and connect congregations and mid-councils to “improve the quality of education for 1,000,000 children in the U.S. and globally over the next 4 years.”
The initiative would also support global and domestic leaders who have made a commitment to education and to recognize this as a calling.
“Lift up this notion of being involved in education as a very important thing,” Dermody said.
The mission agency would also develop tangible ways to measure the impact of this initiative, reporting its findings back to the 222nd General Assembly (2016).
At-large committee member Heath Rada asked about religious education and public versus private schooling, and committee member Joyce Smith asked where these education programs might be held.
“We have some ideas, but we don’t have solidified plans,” Dermody said, adding that the mission agency doesn’t want to exclude any options and that it is inviting the church to really engage in this initiative, meaning that plans might look different in different contexts.
The Living Missionally proposal is a “church-wide initiative that will inspire, equip and connect Presbyterians to continue to go beyond the walls of their congregations and increase their engagement in service to their communities and the world.”
“The church ought to exist to serve the community around it,” Dermody said, adding that communities don’t exist to simply fill church pews. “You want to be the kind of church that if it shuts down, people weep because they’ve seen its impact in the community.”
Committee member Steve Aeschbacher asked about the proposal’s goal of addressing “root causes of societal injustices” versus other parts of God’s mission, such as evangelism.
The proposal aims to lessen the “either/or” mentality and recognize that “discipleship is ‘both/and,’” Dermody said, adding that we must both speak and live the Gospel to be disciples of Jesus.
The focus on social justice issues comes from the desire to be in the community and move beyond the church walls, said Rob Fohr, young adult catalyst for the mission agency. Many of the community service opportunities the church might engage in, such as homelessness, poverty or education reform, would fall under the category of social justice.