With some Anglican provinces threatening or actually breaking communion with the Episcopal Church (ECUSA) over the actions of General Convention 2003, the work of ECUSA missionaries continues as usual throughout the world.
Thirty future missionaries will take part in the second annual Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (DFMS) orientation on the campus of the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest (ETSS) for two weeks in January.
The incoming group of missionaries is the largest group to attend such a single training event in 40 years, said the Rev. Jane Butterfield, mission personnel director for the Anglican and Global Relations Cluster of the
Episcopal Church Center and head of the January 10-25 orientation session. After training they will serve in Africa, Asia, Latin America or the Middle East at the invitation of local Anglican bishops.
Continuing a "youth movement" seen during last January's initial orientation session at ETSS, about one-third of the group will be serving in the Young Adult Service Corps, a one-year stint for mission partners 18 to 30 years of age. Austin Rios, a 2003 graduate of the Seminary of the Southwest, will return to campus with the missionary group to prepare to serve in the Diocese of Southeastern Mexico. The Rev. Heather Parr, a senior seminarian from the Diocese of Oregon, will work in theological education and mission development in the Diocese of Venezuela.
Despite the controversy raging in parts of the Anglican Communion, no Anglican province or diocese has yet to ask the Episcopal Church's Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society to recall missionaries or stop sending new ones, Butterfield said. More than 90 missionaries currently serve in 29 countries throughout the world. Examples of their ministry can be seen at http://www.episcopalchurch.org/page/mission-personnel by clicking on Missionary Roster or From the Mailbag links.
Unaffected by theological broadsides being hurled across oceans after last summer's General Convention, the important work of missionaries in strengthening relations and supporting local mission initiatives of their
host churches continues day to day throughout the world, Butterfield said. "Disagreements over sexuality take a back seat to the more pressing realities of civil war, poverty, malaria and HIV/AIDS, and the need to develop educational and economic structures to sustain and deepen rapid church growth in all of the provinces where our mission companions work," she said.
During their two week stay in Austin, the missionaries-in-training will explore mission theology, cultural dynamics, interfaith relations and the living out of missionary identity. Details of the session are available at
The orientation's international staff of teachers includes persons from India, Pakistan, Latin America and Zimbabwe, in addition to several current and former missionaries, seminary faculty members and Episcopal Church Center staffers. Mildred Mbwando, a catechist from the Diocese of Manicaland in Zimbabwe, will begin one year of studies at the Seminary of the Southwest after leading Bible studies during the two-week session. Mbwando will contribute to the educational program of St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in Austin throughout 2004 and the church will help support her seminary studies.