Dr. David Dawson

Executive Presbyter

What is the purpose of this section of the Shenango Presbytery web page?

You will find here a series of questions that local church mission committees are asking. I will offer some reflections on those questions. Your comments and follow-up questions can be sent to me at david.dawson@shenango.org

Background:

I have been, since 1992, the Presbytery Executive of Shenango Presbytery in western Pennsylvania. During the summer of 2002 the Presbytery granted to me a four-month sabbatical to study the subject of Partnership and Money: Wealth in the Missional Church. My thanks for this privilege is extended to the members, churches and staff of Shenango Presbytery. My thanks to John Borter for assistance to the Presbytery while I was away. I am also deeply grateful to the Louisville Institute and the Synod of the Trinity for financial support. Jonathan Bonk and Marian McClure have also been helpful encouragers.

Purpose and Scope:

This series of essays is based on questions which mission committees in local churches are asking. My responses to these questions are designed for mission committees and pastors of churches in Shenango Presbytery, although it is hoped that others might also find them useful.

Focusing on Shenango Presbytery might be considered provincial, but it is meant to be a recognition that it would be presumptuous to think that these essays would apply in every situation. It is also an attempt to take the local church context seriously.

My purposes here are focused on the everyday mission decisions of congregations. But this pragmatic approach does not mean that the inquiry should be narrowly for western Pennsylvania Presbyterians. My thirty years of reflection on these matters considers history, theology, and practice in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and beyond. An extensive bibliography is attached and specific references will be included with each essay. Quotes from the Bible are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) unless otherwise noted.

What can we say about this subject?

  • First, the issues discussed in these essays are not new. They are as old as the subject of Christian mission.
  • Second, there is no definitive treatment of this subject that can be considered authoritative for those interested in questions about how a mission committee uses money.
  • Third, there is actually very little written on the specific subject of “partnership” as it relates to the use of money in doing mission.
  • Finally, money is not the most important question in mission, but it is one that American Christians ignore at their peril.

The most significant source on this subject is Jonathan Bonk’s Missions and Money: Affluence as a Western Missionary Problem (Orbis, 1991). However, its focus is on the impact of western money on the church in non-western countries. The essays that I am writing are concerned about that very important question, but I also wish to address:

  • What is the meaning of money in a cultural context like Shenango Presbytery?
  • How should our mission committee use money in living out our missionary calling?
  • How can we give money to mission work in ways that do good, not harm?

What do I hope will happen?

I hope that the mission committees and pastors of churches in Shenango Presbytery and beyond will interact with these essays. This section of the web page began to function in February, 2003. I hope that you will respond with your comments to david.dawson@shenango.org. I expect to regularly add new essays and update old ones in response to your comments.