WASHINGTON (May 21, 1998) -- Approximately 70 Roman Catholic, mainline Protestant, Evangelical and Orthodox participants explored the changing character of mission work and how that work might be better acomplished ecumenically at the Third Ecumenical Conference on Common Witness.
"Signs of Hope for Mission in a New Millennium" was the theme of the ecumenical conference, which was held at the Archbishop Cousins Center in Milwaukee, May 14-17.
The gathering was held under the aegis of the Continuing Commitee on Common Witness (CCCW), a consultative ecumenical body co-sponsored by the US Catholic Mission Association and Church World Service and Witness (CWSW) of the National Council of Churches of Christ. CCCW exists to foster collaboration in common witness in mission.
The conference also included representatives from several different evangelical mission agencies.
Discussions focused on four themes that organizers believe will be crucial to mission work in the new millennium: evangelization; globalization of the economy; urbanization and mission in the city; and refugees and displaced people. Participants heard from frontline workers in overseas missions, inner city ministries and refugee networks. They strategized about how to promote mission work on an ecumenical basis, both nationally and internationally, and worked on an action plan.
The group looked for innovative ways to share their vision of common witness and committed to invest in a web page and communications network to continue cooperative work that began over a decade ago.
"Although we have worked together well around certain issues, like refugee assistance, we have not done enough together institutionally in areas like mission education and training," said the Rev. Dr. Rodney Page, Executive Director of CWSW. "These conferences have brought together major Protestant and Catholic umbrella mission organizations in a counter-cultural struggle to find common ground."
Dr. Page noted that an ecumenical Gospel and Culture network has been formed and a group of Presbyterians, Lutherans and Catholics are working together to train and orient missionaries.
"The relationships that were formed mirror the inclusive body of Christ which cuts across denominational lines," said Sister Rosanne Rustemeyer, SSND, Executive Director of USCMA. "Leaders considered new areas of mission, including mission in the city and mission among uprooted peoples. It is our hope that the conversations begun here will reach back into our churches and provide new stimulus for those engaged in mission."
Church World Service and Witness of the NCC and the U.S. Catholic Mission Association, which represents about 500 religious mission orders, organized the first ecumenical mission conference in 1987. The second was held in 1994.