Belonging to the community of faith: We value integrity in relationships and mutual accountability in an atmosphere of grace, love, and acceptance.
In 1894, the only Brethren in Christ congregations in the world were in the U.S. and Canada. We had not yet caught a vision for sending workers for witness and service globally.
All of this changed when 37-year- old Rhoda Lee spoke up at the 1894 General Conference assembly, with a challenge to pursue the Great Commission overseas. Lee’s call inspired the Church to action, and three years later, the first BIC missionaries departed for Zimbabwe. We were learning that belonging to the community of faith means crossing borders and bringing the Gospel to all the world.
In the early stages of global missions work, BICWM gave oversight to communication and funding for the initiatives. Once the seeds of ministry took root, however, international BIC Churches began to raise up leaders, multiply churches domestically, and pursue new mission fields on their own. It became evident that these maturing Churches needed and desired a new relationship with BICWM. We were learning that part of belonging to the community of faith means knowing when to step back so that others can take the lead in ministry.
And we continue to grow in that understanding. As international Churches have become more autonomous, they’ve expressed interest in creating a space for everyone to come together as peers to discuss shared issues and questions. Over the last four decades, many (including BICWM) have invested heavily in efforts to help establish such a network.
Then, in 2009, I had the privilege of joining with dozens of other international BIC Church leaders in Paraguay to take part in the official formation of what has become the International Brethren in Christ Association (IBICA). Through IBICA, BIC groups at all stages of development—General Conferences, Associations, and Church Clusters—now have a way to relate to each other directly.
This milestone clarified BICWM’s evolving mission for me. In the past, BICWM took a leadership role in developing BIC Churches around the globe. Today, through IBICA, we play a more supportive role, partnering with national Churches toward the goal of self-sustainability, sharing training strategies, formulating future ways to minister to least-reached people in the world, and bearing one another’s burdens.
I remember seeing this vision play out in a dramatic way at the 2009 meeting, as the chairman of the BIC Church in Nepal gave a firsthand account of his experience of being kidnapped by a militant organization. The group of leaders from around the world entered into his story, listening to, identifying with, and praying for our dear brother. Through this humbling experience, I realized that we are entering into yet another chapter of discovering what it means to belong to the community of faith.