Global Episcopal Mission Network conference, Bogota, Colombia

The Global Episcopal Mission Network (GEMN), the largest mission group in The Episcopal Church, provides a place for people interested in mission to share ideas. It is a network of individuals, representatives of development organizations, and diocesan mission representatives committed to sharing mission information and promoting mission. Ninety Episcopalians gathered in Bogota, Colombia, for the conference themed “Companions in Faith and Resources: Participating in God’s Mission” May 5-9. Mary-Jane Wood and Mary Louise Gotthold of the Department of World Mission represented the Diocese of California.

Colombia Bishop Duque-Gomez welcomed the GEMN conference during the opening Eucharist at La Catedral De San Pablo in Bogota. For more than 20 years, because of the ongoing civil war and narcotrafficking, Columbia has been closed off to the world. Now things are changing. The precarious security situation that has long plagued the country — leading to internal displacement of an estimated 5.2 million people — has worked against the diocese forming partnerships. Bishop Duque stated that the left-wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia, or FARC, began a new round of peace talks — the second session which is currently taking place in Havana, Cuba — shows renewed hope for peace.

Bogota is a beautiful and welcoming city that sits 8,666 feet high on a plateau in the Andes Mountains. Founded in 1963, the Diocese of Columbia is the youngest diocese in the Episcopal Church and one of seven Province IX dioceses spread across the Caribbean and Central and Northern South America. The others — Venezuela, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador Central, Ecuador Litoral, and Honduras — were all represented at the conference. The Rev. Canon Francisco Salazar of the Diocese of Venezuela said, “for North Americans to travel to South America to see for themselves the resources of the Latin American churches is an important step in allowing for an open conversation on how North American missioners can help the Church in Latin America develop those resources.”

In addition to mission, the Bogota conference included a focus on sustainability — a Province IX priority adopted in 2012. The 2012 General Convention allocated $1 million to guide Province IX towards self-sufficiency. Currently only the Diocese of Puerto Rico, which operates a large hospital system, is self-sufficient.

The presence of 14 Young Adult Service Corps missioners serving in Province IX and mission personnel from The Episcopal Church enriched the conference.

The conference included plenary talks and site visits for attendees to experience some of the diocese’s ministries, all of which are supported by churches. The GEMN conference was mostly held in Spanish with simultaneous English interpretation. Holding the conference in Columbia served to strengthen the bonds between the dioceses of province IX and U.S.-based dioceses and parishes. 

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori was with participants the last day of the conference and was the preacher at a joyous closing Eucharist. She spoke in both English and Spanish and said, “Together Christ’s body can heal this world, you have found powerful assurance in these last few days. For one you are not alone. There is quite a team gathered here. And it represents a much larger network of missioners and disciples. This body is like the handful of disciples watching Jesus rise into the clouds.”

For all in Bogota this was a special time of fellowship and making new and reconnecting with old friends.


Photos: Karen Hotte