Friday, November 30, 2018

New Mission Area: The New Temperance

Today's post is by UM & Global blogmaster Dr. David W. Scott, Director of Mission Theology at the General Board of Global Ministries. The opinions and analysis expressed here are Dr. Scott's own and do not reflect in any way the official position of Global Ministries.

Five weeks ago, I raised the question of what features of the world and its various contexts in the 21st century might constitute new areas of mission, in the same way that features of the world 50, 100, or 150 years ago led to areas of mission work that we now consider central: education, poverty relief, healthcare, etc.

This week, I suggest a fifth new area of mission work that would be a revival of an older area of mission work: temperance.

 Already, readers from different geographical areas will have responded differently to this post. Many in Africa and the Philippines will ask, "Isn't this something the church still preaches and promotes?" Many in the United States and Europe will ask, "Why is he suggesting the revival of some out-dated, moralistic crusade?" I mainly want to address the US context here.

As someone who has studied the history of Methodist involvement with the temperance movement, I will readily admit that there were certainly problems with that movement. Much of it was motivated by, or at least drew upon, anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic, anti-working class prejudices. There was a tendency for the movement to be moralistic and self-righteous.

Yet, the movement had its points as well. In the eighteenth century, a fifth of US adults were essentially functional alcoholics. You don't need to think that we should ban the sale of all alcohol to recognize that as a problem. Moreover, temperance reformers were also often concerned with alcohol use's correlation with domestic violence, the economic impact on women and children of money being diverted to alcohol use, and the economic exploitation of the poor through alcohol sales. More than just kill-joys, nineteenth century temperance reformers saw temperance as a means of both aiding individual alcoholics and of ameliorating social injustices.

Temperance's great achievement and apotheosis was the passage of the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution establishing Prohibition as the law of the land. While the 18th Amendment prohibiting the sale of alcohol didn't last (it was repealed by the 21st Amendment), it did produce a marked decrease in the amount of alcohol Americans consumed, even after drinking was re-legalized.

But Americans are now back up to pre-Prohibition levels of drinking, drinking much more than in recent decades. The amount of binge drinking and alcoholism is up too. The gender dynamics of drinking have changed, too, with women making up much of the increase, raising their drinking to on par with men.

I will admit than even as a good United Methodist, I still enjoy a bottle of beer or a glass of wine. I've even brewed my own beer. I drink in moderation, but I do drink.

But still, I wonder: at what point in the craft beer revolution, wine as "mommy juice" trend, upswing in craft distilled spirits, boom of wine of the month clubs will Americans start to recognize that perhaps we've gone too far? At what point will we decide that the impacts on our health, our relationships, our work are more than we've bargained for?

And when we come to that point, what will the church do about it?

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Reappraising the Study of World Christianity

Today's post is by Rev. Dr. Jerome Sahabandhu, Mission Theologian in Residence at the General Board of Global Ministries. The opinions and analysis expressed here are Rev. Dr. Sahabandhu's own and do not reflect in any way the official position of Global Ministries.

Theology of Mission has an interesting overlapping cross-disciplinary engagement with the field of World/Global Christianity. As a scholar and student of missiology (from Asia), I would like to bring out some critical perspectives on the field of World Christianity from my global south point of view. It is my hope that my friends and partners in the study fields of World/Global Christianity and Missiology/Theology of Mission take my reflections as a friendly contribution in broadening the boundaries of these subject areas in leaning, teaching and praxis.

We live in a challenging time, both as the church/Christian community and the world. After centuries of mission and evangelization, Christianity is a global phenomenon today. Our world today is faced with rapid changes due to post-colonialism and post-modernism, technological enhancement, international politics, global migration, and economic transformation. Economic changes have caused both extreme poverty and created a wealthy minority. Therefore, Christian phenomena should be identified, analyzed, appraised, and understood in relation to other socioeconomic and religious-cultural phenomena in the world.

As Christianity’s focus is shifting to the global south in our changing globalized context, and as Christianity is also seeking new mission fields, such as North America, it is necessary to engage in a critical reading and application of Global Christianity as an expanding phenomenon today. Therefore, World Christianity as a field of study in Missology faces the challenge to develop new strategies to promote its learning-teaching paradigms.

I appreciate the substantial work available already on some specific areas of discussion such as the very concept of Misisio Dei that has attracted the attention of both progressive and evangelical theologians alike. Other such areas include the changing landscape of Global Christianity, globalization and Christian responses, empirical approaches in World Christianity, interfaith dialogue, religious fundamentalism, ecumenical approaches to global church, and the like. But I would like to suggest some core areas that need further work and reflection.

Strategic Rethinking and Furthering
World Christianity as a research field should develop new strategies to face the new challenges of the world today; therefore, I would like to identify five strategic areas of cross-disciplinary engagement in promoting World Christianity as a field of study. These areas of course are not new in the discourse, although I suggest the need of further work and research.

1. Mission from the margins: This will provide opportunities to engage in mission on the margins of global Christianity. This approach suggests engaging in interdisciplinary research with scholars and movements from the margins. Defining the margins here can take many shapes and could be multi-faceted. For example, we can think of categories from geo-political margins to ecclesiological margins, from economic margins to ecological margins, from cross-cultural margins to knowledge-based marginalization. This strategic area will use critical social analysis, ecclesiology, and missiology to design and conduct new innovative research projects and studies. The landscape of World Christianity has moved from a Northern-Western based paradigm to a global paradigm. We have to face the realities in the world church, world Christian movements, and global social movements.

2. Cross-cultural engagement: The current cross-cultural discussions of mission in missional education programmes are still very much US- or Euro-centric, as are anthropological studies and discussions in Christian theological schools. In recognizing the limits of these approaches – for example a significant amount of cross-cultural theories are still based on western anthropology, sociology of religion and cultural studies – a question could be raised: What are alternative approaches and methodologies to enhance cross-cultural discourses in missiology using World Christianity as a base? To put it in another way – are we ready for and open to totally different approaches and methodologies in both the theory and praxis of cross-cultural discourses from partners and friends from post-colonial nations?

3. Biblical hermeneutics and Global Christianity: The Bible is central to the Christian faith, but the way in which it is interpreted and read by diverse Christian communities varies. This is an interesting field of study both for biblical and mission scholars. Can these two groups engage in a fresh look at this critical concern and develop new research questions?

Are we ready to rethink some of the methodological considerations of the fourfold western theological approach of Bible, church history, theology and pastoral ministry to adopt totally different (wholistic) models developed in the emerging nations?

Some rethinking in this regard is already happening in the global south itself. I can personally speak of Asia. Wati Longchar, an eminent theological teacher and missiologist from India, presented the following critique of missional education in an unpublished paper presented at a recent FTESEA meeting in October 2018 under the theme of “Journey in Training Church Leaders: Looking Past, Challenges Ahead and Future Partnership”:

“We have curriculums on ecumenism, comparative study of religions, interfaith dialogue, feminist theology, minjung theology, dalit theology, indigenous theology, eco-theology, HIV & AIDS, Disability, etc. But they are not within the mainstream of theological studies. We try to integrate those emerging courses within the inherited traditional western fourfold curricula (Bible, theology, church history and practical ministry) patterns. Some colleges do not offer those courses. Many colleges offer as Elective or Optional courses which many students do not register because they are over loaded by required courses. This paradigm of “integration” or “addition” needs to be changed. Again, if we make further analysis of the whole pattern of theological education, one will discover an urban biased theological education. Theological education is still shaped by the Enlightenment paradigm – philosophical-cognitive development approach focusing on training denominational leaders. This is the crux of the problem in theological education particularly in Asia.”

4. Dialogue related to multiple expressions of Christianity and theologies in the world: We speak of the North-South dialogue in economics and politics, and the South-South Dialogue in global economic and cultural corporations. However, non-Euro and non-US-centric research on the dialogue about various Christian expressions and theologies remains underdeveloped. Yet I believe this is an extremely important field if we wish to develop a wholistic view of world theologies and missiologies. This requires investment in collaborative research with multiple scholars in many parts of the world and the church.

5. World Christianity and world peace: Our world is in dire need of healing, peace, and reconciliation. This strategic point requires study and research on such issues as Christian contributions to, and challenges in, world peace, global Christian scholars’ roles in promoting world peace and reconciliation, and the interdisciplinary research questions that can be developed to study issues in the dynamics of world Christianity and world peace.

Some Challenges
The world mission today takes place from “everywhere to everywhere.” I would like to identity five challenges we have to face to promote World Christianity as a subject. All world Christianity programmes, whether at the undergraduate, graduate, or professional levels, must respond to the main audiences (publics) of theological education: the church, academia, and society. This requires further discussion and practical application.

  • It is essential to extend beyond traditional disciplinary areas, such as church history, missiology, and evangelism (I prefer the term to ‘evangelization’), to develop new knowledge bases to address contemporary changes and secure the position World Christianity deserves as a university subject.

  • International collaborative research: the authenticity and future of World Christianity study programmes will depend on the degree to which our research is international and collaborative, in that our ability to integrate various perspectives, schools of thoughts, and methods, particularly from the global south, is critical to the field. However, this may pose challenges to some Western scientific approaches to the study of mission.

  • We must determine the extent to which scholars in World Christianity both in the global north and south are willing to engage with professional sociologists and social analysts in their critical appraisals of the global church and Christianity’s presence in the world.

  • Church leadership everywhere should be encouraged to educate their seminarians, theological institutions, young pastors, and the laity to study Christianity from a global perspective at the same time that they study their own church history or growth.

  • The last (but not least) challenge I think of is the affordability and accessibility of World Christianity studies and research and the fruits they offer to the wider community. World Christianity as a subject should be available to all students of mission. This will make it simpler to promote World Christianity within academia as well as at the public level better and thereby to take World Christianity to the common people.

I hope these insights will offer fresh perspectives as we progress in appraising the status of World Christianity as an innovative area of study and research and missional application.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Recommended Reading: Oxford Institute of Methodist Theological Studies Papers

This past August was the 14th meeting of the Oxford Institute of Methodist Theological Studies. The theme for the 2018 meeting was "“THY GRACE RESTORE, THY WORK REVIVE”: Revival, Reform, and Revolution in Global Methodism." The meeting brought together scholars of Methodism from around the world, though especially from the British Isles and North America.

Papers from that Institute meeting are now available online.

Papers are grouped into eleven working groups, as follows:
1. Biblical Studies (Hebrew Bible / Old Testament)
2. Biblical Studies (New Testament)
3. Ecumenical Studies
4. Interreligious Studies
5. Methodist History
6. Mission and Evangelism
7. Practical Theology
8. Theological Education
9. Theology and Ethics
10. Wesley Studies
11. Worship and Spirituality

Just over 125 papers are included in the collection. This collection is sure to be a rich resource for those interested in learning more of the current state of academic conversations about various facets of Methodism.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Recommended Readings: Updates on the UMC and injustices in the Philippines

As previously shared on this blog ([1] and [2]), The United Methodist Church in the Philippines is struggling to confront and name injustices in a country with a significant amount of state-sanctioned violence, especially against the poor and indigenous people. The following are three recent stories that continue the tale of the UMC's social engagement in the Philippines.

UMC's Church and Society agency shared a story about a Solidarity Team from the Cal-Pac Annual Conference that traveled to the Philippines over the summer. It includes what the Solidarity Team learning about violence and injustices in the Philippines.

UMNS covered a story about an All Saints' Day service at St. Paul UMC in Manila that lifted up prayers for and shared the experiences of victims of extrajudicial killings and their family members.

UMC Deaconess Norma Dollaga wrote a blog post about what she has learned about the plight of sugarcane workers in the Philippines, especially during the "Time of Death," when lack of income raises the risk of starvation.

Friday, November 16, 2018

New Mission Area: Access to Electronic Information Technology

Today's post is by UM & Global blogmaster Dr. David W. Scott, Director of Mission Theology at the General Board of Global Ministries. The opinions and analysis expressed here are Dr. Scott's own and do not reflect in any way the official position of Global Ministries.

Four weeks ago, I raised the question of what features of the world and its various contexts in the 21st century might constitute new areas of mission, in the same way that features of the world 50, 100, or 150 years ago led to areas of mission work that we now consider central: education, poverty relief, healthcare, etc.

This week, I suggest a fourth possible new area of mission work: access to electronic information technology. This area is in part a rethinking of a former area of mission work: paper-based information technology.

Missionaries were a key player in a previous wave of access to printed information. This type of print information technology mission was carried out through translation work, education, and printing. Missionaries were leading figures in promoting the development of written languages for previously oral-only languages. They were leading figures in promoting literacy in many languages, regardless of whether or not they were previously written. Missionaries (especially Methodist missionaries) started printing presses, newspapers, and magazines in many countries around the world, helping to democratize access to print materials.

The incentive for missionaries in promoting literacy was so that converts (and potential converts) could access religious writings--primarily the Bible, but also hymns, devotional texts, and other religious and theological works--and so that native Christians could communicate with missionaries and each other.

For those used to reading, it is easy to overlook the basic fact that literacy is not just a skill, but a skill at using a set of technology--pens, paper, and printing presses are all items of technology. Reading and writing is thus an information technology.

Yet when the phrase "information technology" is used today, it denotes not print material, but electronic communications equipment - cell phones, email, the internet, etc. All of these forms of technology depend upon skills of reading and writing built upon earlier, physical forms of reading and writing technology, but transposed into the medium of electronics.

Missionaries are not the pioneers of contemporary electronic information technology in the same way that they were of paper-based information technology. Businesses, along with education, government, and secular nonprofits lead the way here.

Yet it is worth asking why missionaries are closer to the forefront here. Is access to the Bible and other devotional and theological materials really only best done through paper? Are there no religious (or other missional) benefits to having access to the world of electronic information technology? Certainly many in the West use information technology to access the Bible, to receive daily devotions, to access online resources in theological, ethical, and other church-related materials. Why do we assume these materials are only appropriate or relevant for Western Christians? Is there no benefit to Christians around the world being better able to communicate with each other?

Access to the Internet varies significantly by country. While the average percentage of the population online in the 50 most well-connected countries is 84.4%, in the rest of the world, it's only 31.6%. Cell phones are much more widely available, and SMS messages along with apps like WhatsApp represent a significant, albeit more limited, form of information technology access for many in developing countries. Certainly, though, there is more to be done in providing access to electronic information technology

Moreover, The United Methodist Church is already doing work in this area. It is both distributing new forms of electronic information technology, such as the e-reader program for theological education in the central conferences, and using existing electronic information technology to new missional purposes, such as the use of text messages to combat the spread of Ebola.

These efforts are good starts, but certainly the types of work in this area of mission could be expanded. Thinking of providing access to electronic information technology as a basic form of mission work (and not just a nifty means to an end) would help to further such work. Moreover, seeing this type of mission work as a continuation of a long-standing mission focus gives historic emphasis to the work, even as it brings it into a new era.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

General Conference 2019 and the Null Hypothesis

Today's post is by UM & Global blogmaster Dr. David W. Scott, Director of Mission Theology at the General Board of Global Ministries. The opinions and analysis expressed here are Dr. Scott's own and do not reflect in any way the official position of Global Ministries.

When I taught at Ripon College, I had a colleague in the biology department who would frequently challenge the faculty during our discussions with the following question: "What's the null hypothesis here?"

In statistics, the null hypothesis is an assumed hypothesis set up so that researchers can try to prove it false as part of proving that some other hypothesis is much more likely to be true. Usually, the null hypothesis assumes no correlation between phenomena under study, no impact from experimental interventions, no change under test conditions, or the like.

General Conference 2019 has been presented as an opportunity for delegates to select between three plans: the One Church Plan, the Traditionalist Plan, and the Connectional Conference Plan.

If we were being scientific in our analysis of GC2019, we might call the assumption that the One Church Plan will pass Hypothesis 1, the assumption that the Traditional Plan will pass Hypothesis 2, and the assumption that the Connectional Conference Plan will pass Hypothesis 3. Much has been written about the relatively likelihoods of Hypothesis 1 and Hypothesis 2 being true.

Yet any analysis that is focused solely on these three plans as possible outcomes overlooks the Null Hypothesis in this situation. The Null Hypothesis, at least as I see it, is that no plan will pass GC 2019. No action by GC2019 is the baseline scenario against which the likelihood of other scenarios must be measured.

To prove that any of Hypotheses 1-3 are true, the Null Hypothesis must first be proven false. In other words, to show that GC2019 will adopt a plan, it must first be shown that it will not adopt no plan.

The difference is perhaps subtle, but it changes the analysis if the question is not, "Which plan is more likely to be passed: the One Church Plan or the Traditional Plan?" but instead, "Is it likely that GC 2019 will pass a plan? If so, which plan is most likely to be passed?"

Of course, others have acknowledged that it is a possibility GC2019 could do nothing. Yet most of the conversations I see (on both ends of the spectrum and in the middle) are, "What will you/I/we do if X plan passes?" I have seen a lot less sustained conversation about, "What will you/I/we do if no plan passes?"

Yet it may be worth having those conversations. The Null Hypothesis may well prove to be false, but it may also prove to hold true.

Moreover, the Null Hypothesis does not mean no change in the church. It means no plan, but change will come, with a plan or without one. What could that change look like and how might various actors respond?

Unless one is willing to contemplate the possibility of the Null Hypothesis, one will be unprepared for and surprised by the changes that will come if it is true.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Recommended Reading: Methodist bishops' statements on migration

In light of recent debate about caravans of migrants from Central America traveling through Mexico to the United States, episcopal leaders from several Methodist denominations have issued statements affirming the importance of treating migrants with empathy and dignity and recognizing their full legal rights.

The Methodist Church of Mexico issued a statement on October 20 signed by all six of their bishops. You can find that statement in English and Spanish versions.

The United Methodist Council of Bishops issued a statement on November 7, which was co-signed by the Mexican bishops, the President of the Methodist Church of El Salvador, and the supervising bishop for the United Methodist mission in Honduras.

Friday, November 9, 2018

New Mission Area: Mental Health

Today's post is by UM & Global blogmaster Dr. David W. Scott, Director of Mission Theology at the General Board of Global Ministries. The opinions and analysis expressed here are Dr. Scott's own and do not reflect in any way the official position of Global Ministries.

Three weeks ago, I raised the question of what features of the world and its various contexts in the 21st century might constitute new areas of mission, in the same way that features of the world 50, 100, or 150 years ago led to areas of mission work that we now consider central: education, poverty relief, healthcare, etc.

This week, I suggest a third new area of mission work: mental health.

The church has long been involved in health and healing work as a form of mission. In various times and places, this sort of mission work has ranged from faith healing to patient nursing of the sick to the spread of Western medicine. But it has usually focused on physical aliments: sickness, disability, injury.

Mental health has only relatively recently (within the past century or so) been understood as a category of human ailment. And there has often been a good deal of disbelief or shame involved in using the framework of mental health to describe human ailing.

Yet mental health problems are quite common, more so than many diseases. Estimates of the overall incidence of mental health disorders is about 15% globally, and 4% each for depression and anxiety. Overall incidence of cancer, by comparison, is about .2%. Women and people living in Western countries are more likely to experience mental health disorders. In the US, overall prevalence is just over 18%.

Despite the prevalence of mental health disorders, churches have often struggled to know how to respond to mental health, perhaps because of discomfort or difficulty in discerning the line between the cognitive/emotional and the spiritual.

Yet the church has a great potential to treat mental health in holistic ways that include cognitive, emotional, and spiritual components without reducing any of these elements to the others. Indeed, we don't see prayer and medication as mutually exclusive approaches to treating physical disease. Why should we see prayer and counseling (and perhaps medication) as mutually exclusive approaches to mental health?

Since the church proclaims freedom from our burdens, it would seem that mental health care could be a promising new form of mission work. Indeed, since Christianity proclaims joy and peace as among the fruits of the Spirit, it would seem a failure if the church did not address mental health issues that can rob people of these elements of a healthy, holy life.

Moreover, mental health is an area that the church is already engaged in, at least in places. Drawing on his experience of church work with mental health, Peter Bellini wrote a fine three-part series for UM & Global a few years ago on "Global Mental Health and the Church." For those looking to explore this topic further, I commend it to you:

Global Mental Health and the Church, Part I
Global Mental Health and the Church, Part II
Global Mental Health and the Church, Part III

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Recommended Reading: Global Ministries' statement on Sri Lanka

This recommended reading comes courtesy of Rev. Dr. Jerome Sahabandhu, Mission Theologian in Residence at Global Ministries, regular contributor to UM & Global, and Sri Lankan native. The statement is republished in full below. The original can be found here.

A statement on the current situation in Sri Lanka
By Thomas Kemper

The General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church is deeply and prayerfully concerned about the current political crisis in Sri Lanka. We extend our pastoral solidarity to all peace-loving communities of all faiths and ethnicities and to our mission partners in the country, an Asian democracy still emerging from civil conflict officially ended in 2009.

The new troubles arise over the office of prime minister. On Oct. 26, 2018, President Maithripala Sirisena named a replacement for Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in violation, many feel, of the Sri Lankan constitution. The effort to seat Mahinda Rajapaksa as prime minister caused chaos in the country. The resulting political impasse can likely be resolved only by convening Parliament to deal with the matter, an action the president has resisted.

Global Ministries has strong bonds with a range of Christian (Methodist and ecumenical) and other religious communities in Sri Lanka as a result of humanitarian and mission partnerships over the years.

Sri Lanka as a nation suffered 26 years of war due to the ethnic conflict and war that ended about a decade ago. Since then, various peace-loving and democratic movements, including the Christian churches, continue to engage with the people of Sri Lanka in the work of reconciliation, healing and national unity, along with socioeconomic development. The country is working toward a new constitution in which rights of all communities will be safeguarded. The people of Sri Lanka elected a new government in 2015 with the hope of establishing lasting peace, development and protection of the human rights of all.

As steps toward peace in the current crisis, Global Ministries:

• Urges the president and legislative leaders to convene the Parliament and resolve the matter of the prime minister by peaceful means
• Urges the government to respect the mandates of the democratic change enacted in 2015;
• Urges all people of Sri Lanka to affirm their commitment to democracy and justice by peaceful, nonviolent means; and
• Urges responsible authorities to protect the freedom of expression and the media.

We join with colleagues and partners in Sri Lanka as they share the message of Jesus in Matthew 5:9, NRSV, which reads, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

*Thomas G. Kemper is the General Secretary of Global Ministries.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Recommended Reading: Lisa Beth White on planning a short-term mission trip

Lisa Beth White of Sister of Hope Ministries has put together a helpful step-by-step guide for churches planning short-term mission trips. Lisa Beth's guide is essential reading for any congregation that is interested in going on such a trip while taking into consideration the best of current missiological thinking. Lisa Beth emphasizes the importance of relationship-building and faith-building as goals of the trip that need to be built into the planning.

Planning a Short-Term Mission Trip - Part One: The Destination

Planning a Short-Term Mission Trip - Part Two: The Work Project

Planning a Short-Term Mission Trip - Part Three: Do No Harm

Planning a Short-Term Mission Trip - Part Four: Putting a Team Together

Planning a Short-Term Mission Trip - Post-Mission Trip Retreat

Friday, November 2, 2018

New Mission Area: Climate Refugees

Today's post is by UM & Global blogmaster Dr. David W. Scott, Director of Mission Theology at the General Board of Global Ministries. The opinions and analysis expressed here are Dr. Scott's own and do not reflect in any way the official position of Global Ministries.

Two weeks ago, I raised the question of what features of the world and its various contexts in the 21st century might constitute new areas of mission, in the same way that features of the world 50, 100, or 150 years ago led to areas of mission work that we now consider central: education, poverty relief, healthcare, etc.

This week, I suggest a second new area of mission work: climate refugees.

Climate refugees, or environmental migrants, are people who move because their place of residence becomes uninhabitable because of changing climatic conditions. The nature of those changing climatic conditions vary based the locale, from disastrous storms to sinking underwater to thawing permafrost to desertification. While these changes affect countries in different and unequal ways, climate change refugees may come from all over the world, including Western countries such as the United States. Experts warn that such climate changes could generate tens of millions of refugees, creating the "world's biggest refugee crisis." Yet this category of refugee is only just beginning to receive attention.

As the number and perceived significance of climate refugees as a category of displaced people grows, climate change refugees will present a potential new area of mission for Christians.  Of course, this issue is far beyond what Christians can tackle alone, but it should be an issue with which Christians engage, in partnership with others.

In many ways, Christian mission with climate change refugees will be a continuation of previous areas of Christian mission. Christians have been significantly involved in mission with refugees for the last century. Disaster relief and recover, which is related to mission with climate change refugees displaced by catastrophic storms or famine, has been an important area of mission work, especially for The United Methodist Church, over the past fifty years. Mission with migrants is getting increasing attention, and climate change refugees are a form of migrant.

Yet there are reasons why it may behoove the church to think of mission with climate change refugees as being something different that mission with other refugees. Refugees are typically displaced by some catastrophic event - war, a disaster, famine, etc. Some climate change refugees do fall into this category.

Yet for other climate change refugees, becoming a refugee is more akin to how becoming a migrant works. These climate change refugees recognize that the place in which they are living is untenable and decide to move, but there is no single precipitating event that leads to a wave of people making that decision at the same time. The move is necessary, but not forced.

For climate change refugees of either kind - catastrophic or gradual - becoming a refugee because of climate change also has this unique feature: there is no possibility of going home. Many refugees do not want to or are not able to go home because of political and economic conditions in their homeland. But for climate change refugees, home ceases to exist. It is obliterated because of changing climatic conditions.

Here may be a unique opportunity for Christian mission with climate change refugees. What spiritual and psychological resources can Christians, as people who "have no abiding home" and whose message is about new life after death and departure from the old, bring to mission with climate change refugees? How can we not only help care for their physical needs in the process of relocating but also help them make sense of and find hope within this transition where there is no going back?

Mission with climate change refugees with thus be both a continuation of existing areas of mission and a new area of mission in its own right. But we can expect that recognition of this problem and of the church's need to respond will increase as the number of climate change refugees does.