26 June 2019

Challenges that bring home
the crucial importance of
mission in an unjust world

Looking forward to the next steps in mission with USPG … at the High Leigh Conference Centre in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

As part of the three-day USPG Conference this week, the Council of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) met in the High Leigh Conference Centre last night [25 June 2019].

John Neilsen, USPG’s chair of trustees since last year’s conference in July 2018, reported how USPG has made several significant strides forward. The trustees have set a clear path to achieving financial sustainability over the next two years, there are several new trustees, and the Revd Duncan Dormor, who has been General Secretary since January 2018, has provide USPG with strategic and energetic leadership.

‘The need for a proactive Anglican mission agency remains very clear,’ he said in his report. ‘We wish to stand closely alongside our partners around the world, many of whom witness to the Gospel in conditions of great challenge, not least in facing poverty and risks to personal security.’

The year 2018 has been one of significant change for USPG. Canon Chris Chivers retired after six years in the chair, and the trustees who retired during the year include Canon Joabe Cavalcanti, John Chilver, the Revd Dr Olubunmi Fagbemi, Rosemary Kempsell (Vice-Chair), Bishop John McDowell of Clogher, Leah Skouby and Jane Watkeys. New trustees include Sheila Cook, Bishop Jo Penberthy, the Revd Dr Carlton Turner and Martin Uden.

At last year’s council meeting in High Leigh (3 July 2018), I was elected a trustee for a second three-year term. At last night’s council meeting, Catriona Duffy and Catherine Wickens were appointed as new trustees, the Revd Canon Dr Daphne Green (Vice-Chair), the Revd Christopher Rogers, and Richard Barrett were reappointed as trustees for a second three-year term each, and the Revd Judith Ware, Diocese of Manchester, was elected to the council.

During the past year, USPG bought new offices at 3 Trinity Street, Southwark. It is a sign of commitment to the long-term ministry of USPG and should be the society’s base for many years to come. The new chapel was filled for the commissioning service on 21 March 2019.

John Neilsen thanked USPG’s staff for their ‘support and dedication through the challenges of moving, first to temporary offices … and then to the new building.’

Looking ahead, USPG recognises its greatest current challenge is to enthuse many more churches and individuals across Britain and Ireland to share in this exciting work, in practical ways as well as with prayer and financial support.

The Revd Duncan Dormor spoke of how USPG lives out its mission in the midst of the world’s challenges. His report spoke of the horror of attacks on churches in Sri Lanka and an unprecedented second cyclone in Southern Africa, with extensive flooding and a cholera outbreak.

‘These events bring home in stark terms the crucial importance of USPG’s engagement with the issues of climate justice and inter-religious living, as well as other key challenges, like migration and gender justice.

‘All of these challenges are truly global in nature and remind us of the fundamental interdependence of the world, and the deep sense of connection between the churches of the Anglican Communion ... They shape the mission priorities of our partner churches.’

USPG has developed a strategic vision for the coming years, outlined in the document, Open to Encounter: Mission in the 21st Century. The process of reflection on what it means to be a mission agency in the 21st century has deepened the commitment to addressing the common challenges.

Three high level strategic priorities have been identified: to Rethink Mission, to Energise Church and Community, and to Champion Justice. These three priorities are delivered through six strategic programmes:

Mission theology: to support, facilitate and encourage creative initiatives in missiological theology within the Anglican Communion and to provide opportunities for dissemination and wider discussion.

Leadership development: To assist in the development of collaborative and mutually accountable leadership within the Anglican Communion.

Strengthening capacity: to accompany the provinces and dioceses of the Anglican Communion as they further develop their capacity to deliver their mission through integrated programmes that serve the needs of their churches and communities in holistic mission.

Mission Engagement in Britain and Ireland: to strengthen and equip the churches of Britain and Ireland to engage in world-wide mission through developing USPG’s engagement with dioceses and a wide range of Church networks, and providing opportunities for individuals to experience the world-wide church.

Policy development and alliance-building: to provide high quality research about faith-based mission and development that informs best practice and influences secular and religious policy- and decision-makers.

Supporting locally prioritised initiatives: To strengthen churches in the Anglican Communion as they seek to tackle injustice by sharing skills, experience and resources to support locally prioritised initiatives.

The conference comes to a close later today.

A walk by the lake at the High Leigh Conference Centre in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

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