NASHVILLE (7/12/2011) — Delegates to the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) heard reports today from several general ministries of the church, including a combined report from Higher Education and Leadership Ministries (HELM), Church Extension (CE), and Disciples Home Missions (DHM) about a new collaboration called the HOPE Partnership for Missional Transformation.
The partnership hopes to develop leaders and equip churches for transformation and new ministries through seed loans, ministerial assessments and trainings, spiritual discernment, help in finding new and creative ways to minister in the community, and continuing education for new church planters and other clergy.
HELM President Dennis Landon said the partnership is “not an entity, not a new unit. It’s a banding together to support leaders.”
Each unit also presented an individual report. HELM’s featured an 1960s-style “mockumentary” featuring Landon as “Dr. Leader,” director of HELM labs, instructing two fresh-faced children on how his “lab” creates church leaders.
DHM President Ron Degges told delegates the ministry’s focus is “to equip Disciples for mission and ministry … in a hands-on way.” He noted DHM’s Refugee and Immigration Ministry, which settled more than 1,200 refugees in 2010; the impact of Family and Children’s Ministry’s Children Worship & Wonder program; the growth of racial and ethnic ministries to serve the needs of an increasingly diverse church; and Disciples Volunteering, which is sending thousands of volunteers to help in areas devastated by natural disasters.
Lori Adams, Transitional President of Church Extension, told delegates that part of CE’s new mission is to help churches find ways to repurpose existing facilities for new mission use.
“We have entire rooms of our churches that house things we don’t use,” she said. “Huge portions of our church budgets go to our buildings, keeping us from doing and funding the mission God calls us to.”
CE will continue to lend money for capital projects and counsel churches on how to better use their facilities and funds through the Disciples Church Extension Fund. But a new mission of the unit is “partnering with churches to put a portion of their operating income into leadership development in ministry” and to convert “underused assets into spaces to form Christian people.”
Adams called on the church to honor CE’s retiring president, James Powell, who received a standing ovation from the crowd.
Delegates also heard reports from the Council on Theological Education; the Christian Church Foundation, which noted that its assets grew in 2010, enabling gifts to more than 400 different Disciples ministries that year; and the Division of Overseas Ministries, whose president, David Vargas, took the opportunity to thank the church for “the opportunity and the privilege you have given me to serve in your general ministries for more than three decades.”
Vargas told delegates, “I will always love you. And although I am technically retiring in 19 days, I assure you that I will always be a minister of Jesus’ good news until my last breath. Muchas gracias.”
By: Sherri Wood Emmons