Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Norway-Sierra Leone Partnerships

A bit belatedly, I'd like to pass along this news story posted by UMConnections last week.  It's about rural development projects in Sierra Leone sponsored by the United Methodist Church in Norway and the Norwegian government, working with the Sierra Leone Annual Conference as a local partner.

I think this story is worth noting for a couple of reasons.  As I've mentioned in previous posts, stories about how non-US branches of the UMC are engaged in mission remind us that mission doesn't only flow from the US out to the rest of the world.  Mission is a many-directional phenomenon in the present world.  That's true of Christianity in general, and it's true of the UMC as well, as US-centric as the church remains.  This story should challenge our US-centric understandings of mission even more so than previous stories I've shared because no US-based Annual Conferences or agencies are part of this project.  It's just Norwegians and people of Sierra Leone connecting directly.

Second, it's important to note that this project isn't just a fly-by project for the UMC of Norway.  It's part of an on-going relationship with the Sierra Leone Annual Conference that dates back from before 2008.  The project comes out of a history of cooperation and partnership that makes this an example of Norwegians engaged in ministry with people from Sierra Leone, not ministry to them.

Finally, it's interesting to note that it's not just branches of the UMC that are involved in this project, but the Norwegian government.  In the United States, we have certain deeply-held notions about the relationship between churches and government, but as we think about The United Methodist Church, we have to understand that not all countries will share these same assumptions.  While the church must always be wary of submitting itself to too great of government influence, it is possible that government may be a positive partner in other countries in ways that are not conceivable in the United States.

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for your post David and this important update. United Theological Seminary, where I am Assistant Professor in the Practice of Missiology and Director of Non-Degree Programs, has also made a commitment to be in ministry with the people of Sierra Leone. This past March United's President Wendy Deichmann and I, along with two others, were invited to celebrate the 133rd Sierra Leone Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church with our friends in Sierra Leone. We brought greetings, made presentations, and connected with our sisters and brothers in ministry. Under the leadership of Bishop John Yambasu, the Conference is seeking to restore and rebuild God's kingdom in the land.in the aftermath of the ten year civil war that ravaged the country. We see that leadership development as one of the keys to restoring and redeveloping Sierra Leone. United has provided scholarships for four highly gifted pastoral leaders in the Conference to study in the Master of Divinity program at United. The students began classes this Fall. This is the beginning of an ongoing partnership with the people in commitment of our hearts, resources, gifts, and graces to God's work in Sierra Leone. For this we give God thanks, - Peter Bellini

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    1. Peter, Thank you for sharing that story of partnership. Truly, it is something to give God thanks for! ~David

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