Thursday, May 1, 2014

Guiding Questions

I spoke with three pastors regarding their involvement in relationships between American church bodies and international communities.  In the near future, I will share my summaries of these conversations.  Before I do that, I want to share the questions I asked and my reasoning for asking these questions.

My first conversations were with Rev. Bimen Limbong and Rev. Chris Duckworth.  Rev. Bimen Limbong coordinates the ELCA Indiana-Kentucky Mission Territory’s engagement with the Huria Batak Protestant Church (HBKP or the Batak Church).  Rev. Chris Duckworth coordinates the synod’s engagement with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chile (IELCH).  I brought the following six questions to these conversations:

1) “What is your role within the Indiana-Kentucky Synod’s relationship with (HBKP or IELCH)?”  I asked this question as a soft introduction to the conversation and to establish where this person works within the Companion Synod Relationship.

2) “In what events did you participate when you traveled to (Indonesia or Chile) and met with (the Batak church or IELCH, respectively)?”  Both men had recently traveled to Indonesia or Chile to meet with the respective church organization in these nations.  I wanted to hear what had taken place during these trips and get a feel for how these relationships play out when the two church bodies come together.

3) “How would you describe the ideal relationship between (the Companion Synod Relationship partner in question) and the Indiana-Kentucky Synod?”  The Indiana-Kentucky Mission Territory is in the process of reshaping its Companion Synod Relationships.  With this question, I invited these leaders to share their goals for these reshaped relationships and what the rest of the synod can expect as the work goes forward.  I hoped that the leaders would also share the theology which informs the process and defines the goals for these relationships.  I also asked Rev. Duckworth how the ELCA’s recent focus on missional theology has played a role within the reshaping of these relationships.

4) The Lutheran featured in its February 2014 issue an article discussing why ELCA World Hunger does not practice child sponsorship.  This article led to a great deal of discussion, which is summarized in the March 2014 issue by two letters which either supported or disputed the points within the original article.  What would you say to someone who asked about organizing a child sponsorship structure within our companion synod relationships?”  I asked the two leaders to compare their goals for the Companion Synod Relationships with the child sponsorship model for relationships between individuals or congregations in the United States and communities around the world.  Before attending seminary, I worked as a sales associate for Family Christian Stores.  This company is a major partner with World Vision, one of the most widely-recognized child sponsorship organizations in the United States.  Because many people think of World Vision, Compassion International, and other similar organizations as the primary models for relationships between Christians in the United States and communities around the world, I asked these leaders to address the child sponsorship model and whether this model fit within the ideal relationships they hoped to form with the Batak Church and the IELCH.

5) “In the past month, there have been two natural disasters in Chile.  First, an earthquake measuring 8.2 on the Richter Scale occurred off the coast of Chile.  Shortly after this, a city-wide fire struck Valparaiso, Chile’s main port.  What is the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chile’s response to these events?  What have they asked the ELCA Indiana-Kentucky Synod to do to support them in the aftermath of these events?”  With these being current and pressing issues within the nation of Chile, I asked Rev. Duckworth whether the two church bodies were in contact regarding these events and whether the IELCH had asked for the Indiana-Kentucky Mission Territory to take direct action in response to these events.

6) “How might a congregation or an individual who has an interest in what our synod is doing with these churches in Chile and Indonesia participate in our companion synod relationships?”  Right now, the synod office and the task forces directly involved with the companion synod relationships carry out the relationships on behalf of the rest of the synod.  I asked this question to see how others within the synod can currently participate in this process.

As I stated in my previous post, I also interviewed Rev. Tanner Smith for this project.  This interview took a very different shape, however, because Rev. Smith is a Reformed pastor whose congregation is directly involved with communities in Mexico, Guatemala, and Haiti.  Our conversation also began with Rev. Smith’s involvement with a growing immigrant community within his community of Sioux Center, Iowa.  However, Rev. Smith did address the topics of what he and his congregation are doing within these three international communities, his picture of the ideal relationship between the congregation and these communities, how this picture compared to the ideal relationships described by Rev. Limbong and Rev. Duckworth, and how these relationships have impacted the congregation’s involvement with the local immigrant community.

What other questions do you have?  What questions should I have asked?

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