By Research and Capacity Development Team

“We need young people who will not compromise their faith for comfort; we need young people who will not destroy their soul for bread; and who will not collude with power for the privilege it offers.  We need young people who will say no to corruption in whatever form and from whatever quarter; we need young people who will say no to being co-opted by the death-dealers and dream-stealers of our time; and we need young people who will say no to being coerced into trading the permanent for the passing, however attractive and alluring it may appear.”

This is the call of Rev Dr Collin Cowan, Council for World Mission (CWM) General Secretary, when he addressed the 2017 Training in Mission (TIM) Programme participants during the Valedictory Service held on 28 November in Gu-Ting Church, Taipei in Taiwan.

The leadership of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan led by the Moderator Rev Tan Beng-chi, Dr Sudipta Singh, CWM Mission Secretary for Research and Capacity Development, TIM partners Rev Dr Nasili Vakauta, Principal of the Trinity Methodist Theological College, Prof MP Joseph, Prof Wati Longchar, representatives of the PCT congregation and the TIM participants were in attendance. Themes reflected throughout the service were those of change, justice, empowerment, partnership, mission, and many others.

The service became a time of elation as the participants sang four songs from each of the countries visited throughout the TIM Programme (New Zealand, Fiji, Kiribati, and Taiwan). The passion exuded from the performance was felt by all in the room as the participants poured their gratitude and appreciation into each song. It was as if they were singing a heartfelt thank you to each country that impacted their journey and a special thank you to the CWM for making the opportunity possible.

Since 1981, Training in Mission is the longest running youth leadership development programme of its kind. But this year marks a significant development to the TIM Programme as it has taken a more academic approach giving the participants the opportunity to earn a Diploma in Mission Studies from the Trinity Methodist Theological College in New Zealand.

Stuart Morrison from United Congregational Church of Southern Africa and Felauai Opetaia of Congregational Christian Church in Samoa shared on behalf of the participants and expressed their appreciation of the wonderful family that the participants have become to each other. Their speeches highlighted some of the most impactful lecturers throughout the programme and even challenged the essence of patriarchy within churches and seeing God as more than male. Within the TIM Programme, participants learned about the different theologies in the hope of getting a broader understanding of Christianity with deeper perspective on God, as well as what mission in the context of empire really means. The visits to the informal settlers in Fiji gave them insight on the God of the poor and marginalized challenging them to want to make a change, a re-echo of Liberation Theology. In Kiribati, participants were surrounded by the impact of the climate change, understanding that Ecological Theology plays a role in response to globalization and its effects on the marginalised. Experiences from both Kiribati and New Zealand presented opportunities for participants to see how influential women are in the churches, and more importantly it evoked discussions about the church, patriarchy and Feminist Theology. Overall, the growth in each of the participants was evident throughout the service. They will leave with not only a diploma in Mission Studies but with knowledge that will continue to transform their thinking and the lives of those around them.

Dr Sudipta Singh, CWM Mission Secretary for Research and Capacity Development who manages the TIM Programme, reminded the TIM participants not to conform but to transform the world.

Rev. Dr. Cowan ended with a call to action, a call for young people who will challenge their societies, their churches, and even themselves to push forward as an instrumental voice of change. He challenged the participants to go home ready to be an advocate of change and no longer conform to the Empires of their context. More importantly, he reminded them that work to be done in mission is ongoing and global, and spoke about “leadership that is informed by critical theological reflection; and we need young people who are willing and ready to exercise the discipline required to gain understanding and perspectives that will make that difference.  I dare to suggest that we have those young people in this hall today and throughout our churches; but like Jeremiah, we must accept the call to deconstruct cherished notions of church, bible and God that perpetuate abuse of women and girls, categorisation of peoples and hate crimes of one kind or another.  In its place, young people must accept the call to reconstruct a theology that is grounded in the God of justice, as manifested in Jesus of Nazareth who faced the cross of Calvary in pursuit of life for all.”

TIM participants, together with Prof Wati Longchar, Prof MP Joseph, CWM (UK) Trustee Dr Victor Wan, and CWM General Secretary Rev Dr Collin Cowan