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Church Leaders to Expand Common Witness on Mission Work

May 17, 1998, MILWAUKEE, Wis. --  Eighty Roman Catholic, mainline Protestant, Evangelical and Orthodox participants explored the changing character of mission work and how that work might be better accomplished ecumenically at the Third Ecumenical Conference on Common Witness, held May 14-17 at the Bishop Cousins Center in Milwaukee.

The meeting was sponsored by Church World Service and Witness (CWSW), the humanitarian relief and refugee assistance ministry of the National Council of Churches (NCC), and the U.S. Catholic Mission Association (USCMA). This third conference also included individuals from several evangelical mission agencies.

Participants heard compelling stories of need and response from frontline workers in overseas missions, inner city ministries and refugee networks. Throughout the conference, they strategized about how to further this kind of work on an ecumenical basis and helped draft an action plan that was released at the end of the weekend.

The group looked for innovative new ways to share their vision of common witness and committed to invest in a web page and communications network to continue the cooperative work that began in 1987.

"Although we have worked together well around certain issues, like refugee assistance, we have not done enough together institutionally in areas like mission education and training," said the Rev. Dr. Rodney Page, Executive Director of CWSW. "These conferences have brought together major Protestant and Catholic umbrella mission organizations in a counter-cultural struggle to find common ground. Already, an ecumenical Gospel and Culture Network has been formed and a group of Presbyterians, Lutherans and Catholics are working together to train and orient missionaries. A communications strategy was one of the concrete initiatives to come out of this meeting."

"The relationships that are formed here mirror the inclusive body of Christ which cuts across denominational lines," said Rosanne Rustemeyer, SSND, Executive Director of USCMA. "In this Milwaukee conference, mission agency leaders gathered to consider new areas of mission, including mission in the city and mission among uprooted peoples. It is our hope that the conversations begun here will reach back into our churches and provide new stimulus for those engaged in mission."

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Contact: Wendy McDowell, NCC News

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