To say that the ins and outs of International Witness ministry are complex would be an understatement.
It could take an entire study conference to explore a theology of mission as it relates to congregations, regional churches and the nationwide church as a united body.
Then there are the functional logistics of administering workers in multiple foreign countries. They may or may not have children in international schools. Housing and language training arrangements must be considered, particularly if the workers are North American; plus there are unique visa requirements of each country; compliance with Canada Revenue Agency rules; managing agreements with partners in North America and abroad; insurance and health benefits plans; the safety of workers in unstable countries; transferring funds; receipting donations; and more.
Little wonder then that the working group assigned to this task had trouble reaching a consensus on how to sustain it in the new structure passed at Special Assembly 2017 last month. As a result, and in consultation with the International Witness Working Group, the General Board (now the Joint Council) submitted an International Witness Structure proposal containing key principles.
The proposal, affirmed by delegates, shifts to a blended model of funding. This model will include some form of relational funding, through which congregations and individuals pledge to financially support a ministry or worker, with workers participating directly in fundraising. Congregations are encouraged to continue their financial support of Witness workers they are currently partnered with through designated funding over and above amounts expected from regional churches—especially until June 2018, when all Witness workers will be recalled. All workers will be fully funded until then. Work will begin immediately to help transition Witness work/ministries toward the relational funding model.
In the interim, regional churches will be testing an evaluation grid and congregational support for continuance of International Witness into the future.
All congregations will be invited to begin a partnership with an international partner ministry, even before next June. A cluster of congregations from a regional church or from across Canada could band together to fund an overseas worker to reduce the financial pressure on the 60 or so congregations—out of more than 200—already partnering with overseas ministry.