During the late 1950s Mennonites in North America identified and isolated mission education (sometimes called education for mission) as a focus within congregational Christian education. A seminar at Laurelville Mennonite Center near Scottdale, PA, in July 1959 emphasized, in line with Anabaptist concepts of discipleship and witness, that missions are at the center of church life with mission education an integral part of Christian education.
Mission education, the seminar findings suggested, lays groundwork for understanding and undertaking the world outreach of the church. It develops attitudes, convictions, ideals, and commitment. It involves a long-range effort to bring individuals face to face, in an orderly sequence, with mission philosophy, needs, and work throughout the world. It provides historical and other backgrounds necessary for adequate interpretation of what is going on in the mission work of the church.
Convened by the Mennonite publishers, an inter-Mennonite Mission Education Council functioned from 1960 to 1977. Active partners were the General Conference Mennonite Church and Mennonite Church (MC), with Mennonite Brethren and Brethren in Christ less active. Mennonite Central Committee staff participated fully in both planning and financing. The council produced a series of congregational study materials for adults and for children, including occasional films.
In October 1974 at Rosemont, IL the council extended its regular meeting to consider theological and cultural understandings which undergirded Mennonite mission and service in the mid-1970s and to discuss how these understandings related to mission education. Findings of the full-day's deliberation recorded seven consensus points: (1) Mennonites have a common framework—a need for proclamation, the universality of the gospel, the lordship of Christ, the church as community, the believer's servanthood stance. (2) Mennonites are all experiencing change in their mission with the subsequent opportunity to help people understand these changes. (3) They are aware of and concerned about the economic contrasts among Mennonites from poverty to affluence—with related lifestyle implications. (4) Mennonites recognize the relationship between culture and the proclamation of the gospel, noting areas related to North American affluence. (5) The consultation agreed that Mennonites carry concern for shared decision making and seek ways to close the economic gaps. (6) They affirm that Christian mission is multidirectional and that third world churches have something to teach North Americans. (7) The consultation underscored the realization that the call to Christian mission is not primarily to individuals but to a people.
By May 1977 at Hillsboro, KS the council agreed to dissolve with the anticipation that mission education agenda be considered through other continuing inter-Mennonite associations such as the Council on International Ministries, Home Ministries Council, and Mennonite Publishers Fellowship.
In so doing, the council reiterated that mission education is a significant ongoing task in Mennonite congregations. The council observed that mission education is integral to overall educational agenda and not to be relegated to a narrow slot so labeled. Evolving patterns of congregational life call for increasingly creative ways of providing resources for mission education, with those resources including different ingredients at different times.
Mennonite Board of Missions (MC) organized a Mennonite Church consultation on education for mission in April 1983. Thirty-nine participants worked intensely for three days identifying steps toward a comprehensive denominational design of education for mission. The consultation recognized four resource areas for the task: the Holy Spirit who renews vision and motivates; people in congregations gifted by God for mission; gifted and trained leaders who can model mission and enable members in the mission; communication technology to create global awareness and dispense information.
The 1983 consultation made seven summary declarations: (1) The Mennonite Church (MC) is at a point of transition in mission philosophy and practice. (2) The mission of the church must be carried out both by the local congregation and the broader church. (3) The congregation, in partnership with related congregations and church agencies, is the primary instrument of God's mission and must be significantly involved in mission in its own context. (4) The future of the world mission rests in congregations being aware of and relating to congregations around the world in an experience of global interdependence. (5) Effective education for mission demands congregational vision and follow-through as well as collective cooperation in developing and formulating vision and in sharing vision and resources throughout the Christian world community. (6) Mission education strategies will be varied in light of the many and varying types of congregations present in our peoplehood. (7) Leadership training is of crucial significance for education for mission.
Minutes of respective meetings are filed in Archives of Mennonite Church USA (Goshen, IN & North Newton, Kansas, USA).
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, pp. 594-595. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Roth, Willard E. "Mission Education." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1987. Web. 21 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/M5782.html.
APA style: Roth, Willard E. (1987). Mission Education. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 21 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/M5782.html.