[Episcopal Partnership for Global Mission] An innovative conference on Christian and Muslim practices of religious outreach is one of three projects designated by the steering committee of the Episcopal Partnership for Global Mission (EPGM) for its remaining funds as the mission network disbands after 21 years of serving the Episcopal Church.
The conference, projected for the fall of 2012, will be coordinated by the Center for Interfaith Reconciliation (CIR) in Richmond, Virginia, which is receiving one third of EPGM’s funds. “Christianity and Islam are both ‘missionary religions,’” said the Rev. Canon Jane Butterfield, convener of EPGM’s steering committee, “but what Christians call mission and what Muslims call ‘dawah’ or propagation, rarely comes up in inter-religious dialogue. Yet the sensitivity of the topic means that it’s something we should talk about together.”
“We’re delighted that EPGM has chosen the Center for Interfaith Reconciliation to coordinate this conference,” said the Rev. William Sachs, CIR’s executive director. “The outreach activities of Christians and Muslims have been a source of conflict, and we hope this conference can stimulate reconciling discussion about mission and dawah.” Established in 2006 as a project of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, CIR has coordinated inter-religious conversations throughout the country.
Another third of EPGM’s funds has been designated for the Global Episcopal Mission Network (GEMN), which was founded in 1994 as an association of dioceses concerned with world mission and which has been a member organization of EPGM. GEMN recently broadened its membership to be open, like EPGM, to parishes, individuals, and freestanding mission organizations.
“We’re grateful to EPGM for its longstanding work of supporting the church’s world mission,” said the Rev. Dr. Ted Gaiser, president of GEMN and recently appointed missionary to Columbia, “and we thank the network for this support of our continuing ministry of working with dioceses and other groups to build up the church’s global outreach.”
The final third of EPGM’s funds will go toward highlighting the need for increased support for global mission at the 2012 General Convention. Historically EPGM was effective in lobbying for world mission at the church’s triennial conventions, most notably in reversing a planned disbanding of the church’s missionary program in 1994, reorganizing with a closer connection to Executive Council in 2000, and presenting a new world mission vision for the church in 2003. The funds for activism at the 2012 General Convention will be channeled through GEMN.
Each of the three grants will be about $5,600. EPGM’s decision to disband was taken at the network’s annual meeting at Everyone Everywhere 2011, the church-wide mission conference held in October 2011 in Estes Park, Colorado. EPGM grew out of the Episcopal Council for Global Mission (ECGM) with its structural organizing plan approved by Executive Council in 1999 and adopted by General Convention in 2000.
The network was formed in 1990 to reconcile Episcopal mission organizations that had significant theological differences about such issues as evangelism and human sexuality, and at the turn of the century it included over 60 groups representing a wide theological spectrum. Increasing church-wide tension about sexuality from 2003 prompted a majority of conservative groups to leave EPGM and form another network, Anglican Global Mission Partners, now affiliated with the Anglican Church in North America, and this led to EPGM’s decline and ultimate disbanding.