By Jay Wittmeyer
The Mission Advisory Committee, which helps guide the international ministries of the Church of the Brethren Global Mission and Service program, held its biennial gathering in Haiti to see first-hand the holistic ministry of the Haitian mission. The visit hosted by the Brethren Ministry Center in the Port-au-Prince area, also met with Haitian leadership to better understand the growth of Eglise des Freres Haitiens, the Haitian Church of the Brethren.
The committee traveled to Port-au-Prince on Feb. 25 and returned on March 3. The Mission Advisory Committee consists of Bob Kettering, Carol Mason, Dale Minnich, Jim Myer, Becky Rhodes, Roger Schrock, and Carol Waggy. Member Bruce Holderreed was unable to attend. Roy Winter, associate executive director of Global Mission and Service, executive director Jay Wittmeyer, and coordinator Kendra Johnson, participated as staff.
The committee stayed at the Brethren Ministry Center, located in Croix de Bouquet near the capitol and staffed by mission workers Ilexene and Michaela Alphonse, and traveled out to visit some of the diverse ministry programs managed by the Brethren in Haiti: home construction, including newly built homes in the Marin community; agriculture development work; water projects; church construction; school projects; theological education; and a clinic of the Haiti Medical Project. The committee also divided into smaller groups to attend three separate Sunday morning worship services. Two highlights of the trip were a visit to the National Museum and an afternoon at Obama Beach.
Haiti mission coordinator Ludovic St. Fleur, pastor of Miami (Fla.) Haitian Church of the Brethren, recounted his history with the Church of the Brethren and reminded the committee that earlier mission efforts did not come to fruition. He emphasized the need for the Haitian Brethren community to grow in its understanding of Brethren theology, that the mind of Christ be more fully developed.
In its work as an advisory group, the committee considered the growth of the Church of the Brethren in Haiti, as well as in Spain, and emerging Brethren groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon. Discussion questioned whether the 1998 Annual Conference statement “World Mission Philosophy and Global Church Structure” call for a formal structure is going to be realized.
The committee wrote the following statement, and offers it for consideration:
“The Mission Advisory Committee of the Church of the Brethren USA met in Haiti February 24-March 3. One of our tasks was to review mission philosophy, especially the 1998 Annual Conference Statement ‘World Mission Philosophy and Global Church Structure,’ in light of the newly registered Haitian Church of the Brethren. In our discussions, we recognized that the vision of the 1998 statement has not been realized in terms of a formal structure to hear the voice of the global church.
“In reviewing our history of mission, we celebrated that we are in fact a global church. The Church of the Brethren is now established in Brazil, Nigeria, the Dominican Republic, India, Spain, the United States, and Haiti. Our documents and our practices have encouraged culturally-appropriate mission. We have seen a new generation choosing to be Brethren and choosing to plant the church where they are. More than one million people worship weekly in a Church of the Brethren congregation. We have a long history of working well ecumenically and influencing the broader church.
“We do confess, however, that we have made mistakes as we have learned to do mission. Our cultural domination has at times led to ethno-centric decisions and abuse of our financial power.
“In the spirit of the 1998 paper and the Mission and Ministry Board’s current strategic plan, MAC [the Mission Advisory Committee] envisioned a Global Mission Council that would serve as a structure for global sharing and discernment and as a clearinghouse for use of the Church of the Brethren name. For instance, there are Congolese who consider themselves Church of the Brethren after learning about us via the Internet. This council could be the place where decisions of inclusions are made rather than just in the US office.
“Our discussions crystallized into the following recommendation as a possible first step.
“In order to more effectively move into the mandate of the 1998 Annual Conference paper on World Mission Philosophy and Global Church Structure and to meet the current strategic goals of the Mission and Ministry Board, we propose a conversation be initiated by the office of Global Missions and Service with the endorsement of the Mission and Ministry Board and Annual Conference with recognized church of the Brethren bodies from around the world i.e., Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, India, Nigeria, Spain, and the United States.
“The purpose of this invitation is to mutually explore how the Church of the Brethren might best become a Global Church of the Brethren.
“We do not want to preclude where these discussions might lead but one consideration might be the establishment of a Church of the Brethren Global Mission Council consisting of mutual representatives from recognized Church of the Brethren bodies in order to address the emergence of new global Church of the Brethren congregations and mission opportunities around the world.”
— Jay Wittmeyer is executive director of Global Mission and Service for the Church of the Brethren. Find a photo album from the Mission Advisory Committee’s visit to Haiti, featuring photos taken by Global Mission and Service office coordinator Kendra Johnson, at www.bluemelon.com/churchofthebrethren/haiti .