The ministry, faith and challenges of working "to establish God's reign on earth," and upholding the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and "The ONE Campaign" in the fight against global poverty, were the foci of a July 29 panel at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America's (ELCA) Global Mission Event (GME), held July 27-30 at the Amherst-based University of Massachusetts.
Alexander Baumgarten, international policy analyst for the Episcopal Church's Office of Government Relations, joined Kim Steitz, ELCA's director for international policy, and Emily Freeburg of the Lutheran Office for World Community, on the panel, which was moderated by Mary Brennan, World Mission Interpretation and Networks Officer in the Episcopal Church's Office of Anglican and Global Relations.
The Episcopal participation at the GME was a testament to the strong relationship that exists between the two churches, which entered into a "full communion" relationship on January 1, 2001, on the basis of the document "Called to Common Mission," culminating 30 years of dialogue with one another.
"The central mission of the church is to bring about the reign of God in the world," Baumgarten said, upholding the MDGs and the ONE Campaign -- that calls for the U.S. government to annually spend an additional one percent of its budget to combat global poverty -- as critical ways through which churches can lead the way.
The MDGs is an eight-prong declaration that has at its core: halving extreme poverty, halting the spread of HIV/AIDS, and providing universal primary education by the target date of 2015.
The Episcopal Church's 75th General Convention, which met in June, endorsed "The ONE Campaign," and appealed to all dioceses, parishes, and individuals to join the "ONE Episcopalian campaign," a new initiative that seeks to rally Episcopalians to the cause of ending extreme poverty and achieving the MDGs.
The Rev. Randall R. Lee, ELCA's director of Ecumenical Affairs, welcomed guests from the Episcopal Church, acknowledging that the full communion relationship is "for the sake of the mission and ministry of the church," and that the ultimate goal is to achieve the unity of Christ's church.
Brennan noted that both churches have agreed to work together for joint mission and witness in the world.
The Rev. Lisandro Orlov of the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Argentina, opened the morning's plenary session reminding the gathering that nobody is excluded from Jesus' table. "It is not the church's table, but Jesus' table," he said. "We want to share our table with so many people ... I don't choose the mission; God chooses the mission. We are only tools of the mission of God."
Upholding the importance of liberation theology, Orlov added, "I have a dream that one day our church will be converted. We will become converted through our openness to difference, to otherness. That is the gesture of liberation. Our mission is to say to all people: you are citizens of the kingdom of God."
In a recorded video message, U2's lead singer, Bono, promoted the ONE Campaign, recognizing that more than any other time in history, the world has the ability to eradicate extreme poverty.
Steitz explained that, historically, churches have responded to the call to fight global poverty and more recently through the MDGs and the ONE Campaign, "but the challenge is to get Congress to fulfill the promises ... of debt relief and cancellation," she said. "There is an onus of us to hold those policy-makers accountable" to ensure that those goals are met.
Freeburg insisted that the MDGs need to stay at the center of the U.N. agenda "so that the United States Administration will start to speak the language" to keep those issues a priority.
The GME concluded on the morning of Sunday, July 30, with a Eucharist service that welcomed Wahu Kaara, MDGs campaign program coordinator at the All Africa Council of Churches in Nairobi, Kenya, and a 2005 Nobel Peace Prize nominee, as guest preacher.
Further information about the Global Mission Event is available at: http://www.elca.org/gme
Further information about the United Nations Millennium Development Goals can be found at: http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals.
Further information about the ONE Campaign can be found at: http://www.one.org.