A plan for implementing the three-part strategy of the Commitment to Common Mission document was developed and adopted by delegates to a CHARIS leadership meeting September 12-15, 2010. Meeting at the Chateau St. Albain in France, the leaders of the worldwide Grace Brethren fellowships agreed on a strategy of utilizing small teams with specialized expertise to foster and encourage church planting, leadership development, and integrated ministries over the next decade among Grace Brethren churches worldwide.
The September meeting was the first opportunity CHARIS leaders had to convene since the August, 2008, meeting in Bad Homburg, Germany, where the Commitment to Common Mission document was developed. Jorge Nunez of Argentina initiated the discussion with suggestions of strategy, and Florent Varak from France moderated the discussion in which the document was finalized. Tom Julien, longtime missionary to France and the original purchaser/developer of the Chateau, challenged the group each morning with a series of messages on aspects of Ephesians 4.
The leaders agreed to encourage their respective fellowships to implement a strategy of mobile teams, containing expertise in the three areas, who will foster mutual interchange, share from learned experiences, and generate synergy.
To expand the vision, the leaders agreed to keep in regular touch with each other, to organize regional CHARIS gatherings where feasible, and to meet again, probably in 2015, for another international conclave.
Finally, the group discussed the need for developing a commitment to common identity. Up to this point, most Grace Brethren church activity outside the U.S. has been under the auspices of Grace Brethren International Missions. Recently, however, groups of churches have been inquiring about how to join the Grace Brethren, and there is no mechanism to handle such requests. Rather than create a new organization, the CHARIS leaders agreed to an interim strategy whereby the nearest Grace Brethren fellowship would be the evaluator of any candidate’s commitment to biblical truth, biblical relationships, and biblical mission.
Keith Shearer, pastor of the New Beginnings Grace Brethren Church in Myerstown, Pa., was the North American representative at the meeting, and Wayne Hannah, Asia regional director for Grace Brethren International Missions, represented Asian churches. Rainer Ehmann of Germany also participated as a delegate, and Grace Brethren International Missions executive director Dave Guiles convened the group.
The final two days of the meeting, three proven apostolic church planters were invited to share informally with the group. Neil Cole of Church Multiplication Associates; Mboi Andre, who heads the more than 2,500 Grace Brethren churches in the Central African Republic; and Walter Testa, an Argentine missionary to Mexico who is developing an inclusive plan to start churches in every state in Mexico, shared their hearts and vision with delegates. A touching tribute was given by Africa director Frank Puhl to Samuel Dadje, the Chadian evangelist and church planter who went to be with the Lord in April of this year. The Brethren Missionary Herald Co., which has agreed to assist in communications strategy and implementation for CHARIS, was represented by BMH publisher Terry White.