NASHVILLE (7/12/11) — Disciples gathered in General Assembly here today reaffirmed their commitment to planting new churches and voiced support and concern for the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Rick Morse, Vice President for New Church Ministries, told delegates he celebrated the launch of more than 700 new congregations since 2001, but said, “Our joy is tempered by the fact that we could do so much better.”
Morse said New Church Ministries receives less than $3,000 from the church for new congregations, less than many other denominations. Funding for New Church Ministries comes through a special Pentecost offering, which has dropped by more than 35% in the last decade. He noted that less than half of all Disciples congregations support the ministry.
Today, 15% of all Disciples congregations have been started since 2001, he said. “But we are planting these congregations mostly on the backs of our new church planters.”
Delegates adopted a resolution to “Celebrate & Reaffirm Our Commitment to the Vision of Planting Mission.” Morse urged Disciples to celebrate, but also to support new churches “with their wallets.”
Disciples also voted to adopt “A Call for Reflection and Advocacy on Behalf of the Democratic Republic of Congo.”
Introducing the resolution, Richard Spleth, Indiana’s Regional Minister, noted, “Most of us have a piece of the Congo in our pocket or our purse.”
He was referring to coltan, a mineral used in the production of many electronic products, including cell phones. Congo holds 80% of the world’s supply of the mineral.
But the Congolese people do not reap the benefits of this abundance, Spleth said. Instead, “Militias from many nations have overrun the country” to exploit the mineral riches.
Some 6 million persons have been killed in Congo, Spleth said, and countless women and children have faced atrocities at the hands of militias.
According to the World Council of Churches, Congo is home to some 650,000 Disciples of Christ, the result of missionary activity in decades past.
Doug Smith, a member of Delhaven Christian Church in La Puente, Calif., spent time in Congo last summer. “I know the Disciples in Congo will celebrate the passing of this resolution at their own General Assembly at the end of this month,” he said.
“I urge you to adopt” the resolution, Spleth continued, “and do more. When you use your phone or computer, remind yourself of the source of that product. Educate yourself and your church. Support efforts to develop a reliable tracking system for coltran.”
“You carry a piece of the Congo in your pocket,” he said. “Carry a piece of the Congo in your head and your heart.”