New Castle Presbytery believes mission is the way to build unity, so it recently voted to give a $20,000 check to Presbyterian World Mission, in what it hopes is the first of many.
“Absent ferment, we struggle to till new soil,” said executive presbyter, Jim Moseley. “By focusing on mission, Presbyterians can engender theological conversation that unites, rather than divides us. We can rise above dogmatism and at our core be a generative body of believers.”
The $20,000 represents a tithe by the Presbytery from settlements with two churches that departed the denomination. A committee was formed to look at the best way to invest the money in the church’s future and resounding answer was mission. The Presbytery also asked each congregation to commit to sponsor a mission co-worker in one of the 50 countries where they serve.
Bruce Gillette, moderator, said he hopes this is the first of several checks to support World Mission. “Enthusiastically supporting mission is central to what the church is about,” he said. “We are part of a global church. We have a proud history. We have truly made a difference and we want to continue to do so.”
Sara Holben was one of the key members of the committee that studied how to invest the money in the church’s future. “It’s a vision we had that acknowledges our history and connectional nature,” she said. “Just as Francis Makemie brought the Presbyterian faith to the U.S., this decision honors our commitment to spreading the gospel. As we mourn the loss of these churches, we know there is new life as we reach out to a new generation of disciples around the world.”
Makemie is credited with bringing Presbyterianism to America and helped establish the first Presbytery in Philadelphia. New Castle Presbytery grew out of that presbytery.
Holben is pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Chestertown, Maryland. She and her husband Bob Schminkey, the stated clerk of New Castle Presbytery, are active members of the presbytery and also served as mission co-workers in Capetown, South Africa in the 1990s.
Moseley believes much of the shaping of the church’s theology comes from the work mission co-workers are engaged in overseas. He has visited several countries on mission trips, but remembers a day in Ghana that helped him think differently about the importance of the global church. He was at a graduate school where all students were asked to write and interpret their dissertations in their own language. “Students would preface their comments by sharing in my dialect, this is how we would view this. Our language and context truly drives the way you think about theology,” he said.
On another occasion, Moseley was visiting the Guatemalan highlands and engaged in a Bible study among a group where women usually were not invited into theological conversations. He was struck by how one woman spoke about what the scripture meant to her in context of how she views her children. “These conversations, these friendships and these viewpoints, can renew us,” he said.
New Castle Presbytery serves 51 congregations and connected ministries located in Delaware and the eastern shore of Maryland. The church’s mission development unit believes “mission is our calling as Christians and the heartbeat of our life together as a presbytery.”
Hunter Farrell, director of World Mission, accepted the check at New Castle’s 10th annual beach retreat in March, where he was a keynote speaker. The theme of the conference was “Reframing, Unifying, Nurturing: A Brand New World for Mission.”
“We are so grateful for our partnership with New Castle Presbytery, their vision and their leadership in investing in God’s mission around the world,” said Farrell.