'People always ask me: 'Is the Episcopal Church still sending missionaries to foreign countries?'' says the Rev. Jane Crosby Butterfield, mission personnel office director of the Episcopal Church. As an indication that the church is still strongly committed to sending missionaries, she points to a two-week orientation program for 22 candiates on the campus of the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest in mid-January.
This marks the first time Butterfield will stage training sessions for Episcopalians only. Prior to this, orientation programs have drawn missionary trainees from many Protestant denominations and the sessions have been more ecumenically based. 'We hope to make missionaries more visible in the Episcopal Church,' Butterfield said. 'We need to have more focus for training in the worldwide Anglican Communion.' Butterfield opened an extension office of the Mission Personnel Office of the Episcopal Church's Anglican and Global Relations office last summer on the Seminary of the Southwest campus when spouse, the Very Rev. Titus Presler, became dean and president of the seminary in June.
Titled 'Cross Cultural Orientation for Mission Personnel--Ministry in the Dimension of Difference,' the January 18-31 session will bring missionary candidates to the Austin campus from throughout the country. The orientation program includes seminar discussions ranging from cross-cultural dynamics and mission identity to building Christian community from diversity and worship and spiritual formation for mission. Bible studies focusing on mission themes will be mixed with field trips in the Austin and San Antonio areas. Staff teachers will be coming from countries throughout the world, as well as the Episcopal Church Center. Presler and the Rev. Paul Barton, assistant professor of Hispanic studies at the seminary, will assist in the training.
Mission destinations include Zambia, the north of Ireland, Kenya, Honduras, Jerusalem, Venezuela and Gambia. About one-third of the missionary candidates are members of the Young Adult Service Corps. Persons planning to become Volunteers for mission and appointed missionaries round out the orientation group. Missionaries serve for a renewable term of one to three years. Their work is funded by the missionary programs of the Episcopal Church Center and supporting dioceses and home parishes.