In June 1996, the United Evangelical Mission (UEM) was launched. What has been set in motion in the past 25 years is still an opportunity today, especially for the German churches and for Christians in Germany - if the change of perspective is successful. While the member churches of the UEM in Africa and Asia have developed their own UEM self-image, the question remains for the German churches whether they can learn more for themselves from the experiences of the churches in Africa and Asia.
In our extensive and continuously updated online library, you will find historical photos and videos for viewing, as well as numerous contemporary historical documents on the topic of "Internationalization of Mission". Enjoy browsing through our online library!
Follow the annual steps of development of our international UEM, which took a concrete shape with the first Assembly in Ramatea (Botswana) in 1993. Click on the angle on the right for reading.
This year, the first assembly of the new international UEM communion took place in Ramatea (Botswana). There, delegates from churches in Africa, Asia and Germany adopted the UEM constitution, which will then be forwarded to all churches in Asia, Africa and Germany and to the v. Bodelschwinghsche Foundations Bethel for ratification.
In Ramatea (Botswana), a process that had already begun in 1973 came to a provisional conclusion, with which new forms of cooperation in mission were explored and developed under the guiding principle of "mature partnership" between partner churches of the UEM in Asia and Africa and the German members of the UEM. From 1988 to 1996, this process was coordinated and led by the United in Mission Committee, which included representatives from all three regions. From the beginning, the German theologian and missionary Peter Sandner, who was born in Windhoek, had a decisive influence on this process. As the first director of the UEM, he contributed decisively to the further development of the outdated German-centered understanding of mission into an international ecumenical community with equal rights.
The UEM with today's self-understanding as a communion of Protestant churches takes concrete shape at the General Assembly of "United in Mission" in Ramatea under the motto "Growing together into a witnessing communion". In Ramatea, the appointment of the Congolese, Rev. Dr. Kakule Molo, and the Indonesian, Rev. Hamonangan Girsang, also marks the beginning of the process of internationalization of the so-called Referents' Conference, the governing body of the full-time staff of the UEM in Wuppertal. As an expression of the new holistic understanding of mission, the Department for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation is created, and Rev. Dr. Jochen Motte is appointed to head it. All three are inducted into their offices in Ramatea.
From June 2 to 9, 1996, the General Assembly of the "United Evangelical Mission" or "United in Mission" will take place in Bielefeld-Bethel (Germany) under the motto: "Witnessing together in Praise, Prayer and Action". At the General Assembly with delegates from Africa, Asia and Germany, the new international "United Evangelical Mission - Communion of Churches in three Continents" becomes the legally binding reality as the successor to the former German United Evangelical Mission Society.
At that time, the UEM had 33 members, including 32 member churches in Africa, Asia and Germany and the von Bodelschwinghsche Foundations Bethel. The majority of the members and thus of the delegates come from Africa and Asia; this is reflected in the plenary assembly through the one-third parity. In addition, there are elected women and youth delegates. The Indonesian theologian Dr. Soritua Nababan is elected as the first moderator of the new UEM. The operational business at the Wuppertal (Germany) headquarters, the Barmer Mission House on the site of the former Rhenish Missionary Society, is managed by Pastor Rainer Groth as Director of the Mission together with the Executive Staff (board of directors). The International Council serves as a subcommittee of the Assembly, convened annually with the Executive Committee.
The Women's Working Group, which was formed during the United in Mission process to represent the interests of women within the new church communion, will continue after 1996. The new constitution explicitly includes the designation of women's and youth delegates in addition to the Assembly delegates sent by the members.
The new international Council appoints a regional coordinator for each of the three UEM regions, who works in the regional offices in Kigali (Rwanda), Medan (Indonesia) and Wuppertal. Rev. Ruth Quiocho from the Philippines, then Rev. Dr. Robin Butarbutar from Indonesia, Rev. Dr. Samuel Hendje Toya from Cameroon and Rev. Dr. Jörg Baumgarten worked in these positions at the UEM until 2008.
The internationalization of the Executive Staff in Wuppertal, which began in 1993, continues to progress. The new constitution also introduces regional assemblies of UEM members in their respective regions, at which the focal points for joint programs, projects and activities are decided.
A common logo is developed for the external presentation of the UEM. The Hester-Needham House is opened in the immediate vicinity of the Mission House as a retirement home for members of the UEM sisterhood.
In the first operational year of the new United Evangelical Mission, the main focus is on the implementation of the decisions and constitution adopted in 1996. Joint programs with the African and Asian regions are set up and the South-South personnel exchange begins with Dr. Festo and Prica Mutashobya as well as with Exaudi Ndulu, who is sent from Tanzania to Botswana.
The UEM's first human rights campaign is born, which in the future will be proclaimed to coincide with International Human Rights Day on December 10 each year. The campaign includes a campaign poster and various educational materials for use in schools and community work. In connection with this, financial support is also requested for the corresponding projects in the three regions.
The Council meets under the motto "Growing in Faith - a Challenge to Churches in Conflicts and Crises" in Dar-es-Salaam (Tanzania). It is decided to hold joint regional women's seminars in Africa, Asia and Germany in 1999. It is also planned to hold the third international workshop on women's issues under the motto "Overcoming Violence" in 2000. The Council appreciates the initiative of the regions to hold a UEM Sunday/week to publicize UEM programs at the grassroots level and to generate donations.
The Scripture Archives, the Archives Library, the Historical Picture Archives, and the "Ethnographic Museum" will be merged into the independent "Archives and Museum Foundation of UEM."
The exchange of personnel between the regions is intensified. UEM Sundays in the Africa and Asia regions contribute to donations. The regional office moves from Kigali to the administration building of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania in Dar-es-Salaam. The United-in-Mission teams take the UEM's substantive work into the member churches. An evangelists' workshop is held in Bukoba (Tanzania) by the NWD diocese. The Council adopts partnership guidelines as orientation for the more than one hundred bilateral partnerships between the churches and church districts in Africa and Asia with Germany.
The second UEM Assembly takes place in Windhoek (Namibia) on the invitation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Republic of Namibia (ELCRN) under the motto "At the turn of the millennium let us keep firm in the hope we profess" (Heb. 10:23). The Assembly is preceded by youth and women's pre-assemblies. Bishop Dr. Zephania Kameeta, leader of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCRN), becomes the new moderator of the UEM. The old title of "Director," dating back to the time of the German UEM, will be replaced by that of "General Secretary." The Javanese church Gereja Kristen Jawa Tengah Utara (GKJTU) is accepted as a new member of the church fellowship. An international steward program for young adults during Assemblies is established. The Council is mandated to create a code against sexual harassment. The importance of income-generating programs and projects in Africa and Asia is emphasized, as is the development of programs for young adults. The Council is also asked to develop an effective evaluation system for projects and programs. A joint consultation with partner organizations CEVAA and CWM will be held in London.
Faced with the challenges of the global HIV/AIDS pandemic, the UEM launches an anti-AIDS program and the UEM Council publishes a statement on HIV/AIDS. An HIV/AIDS advisor is employed in each of the African and Asian regions. Further focal points are: an analysis of the charismatic movement; the topic of "music" as a new area of mission within the UEM communion; the strengthening of the UEM regional offices in Africa and Asia; the further development of the international exchange of personnel within the three UEM regions, for example with new guidelines on the exchange of personnel; support for women's ordination in the few member churches where women have not yet been able to become pastors; the participation of women in decision-making bodies within the member churches and the consideration of gender equality in application processes of the UEM administration in Wuppertal. In addition, the UEM sisterhood adopts a new leadership concept, and a UEM Human Rights Commission is formed to report to the Council.
The Council meeting takes place at the invitation of the Methodist Church (MC-SL) in Colombo (Sri Lanka). There are first reflections on the reorganization of the UEM departmental structure. The Council adopts a code of conduct for transparency and against corruption. The UEM communion helps the local member church CBCA (Baptist Church) after the eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano in Goma (DR Congo). The "Action Alliance against AIDS" is founded; the UEM is a founding member. The North-South Volunteer Program, which has existed since the 1980s, is supplemented by the South-North Volunteer Program for young adults from the African and Asian member churches.
As the legal successor to the Rhenish Missionary Society, the UEM commemorates 175 years of the Rhenish Missionary Society and celebrates this anniversary under the motto "Mission, Power of Renewal". To increase the income from donations, the UEM officially introduces professional fundraising in Wuppertal with Viktor Grapentin, former officer for partnership work, as fundraiser.
The fourth UEM Assembly will take place in Manila (Philippines) at the invitation of the UCCP Church under the motto: "Behold, I make all things new. Mission: Power of Renewal". A UEM hymn will be selected through an international competition. The code of conduct against sexual harassment is adopted and the Evangelical Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kinshasa (ECC) is admitted as a new UEM member. The UEM Foundation, approved by the Council, is established. The UEM communion deals with the anti-colonial resistance against the Germans in Namibia, which began one hundred years ago.
The UEM work is characterized by the tsunami aid in the severely affected regions of Sri Lanka as well as in Indonesian Sumatra and on the islands of Nias and Mentawai. Thanks to record donations of around 3.7 million euros from private individuals, companies, church districts and UEM members from Africa, Asia and Germany, the tsunami victims can be helped quickly, comprehensively and sustainably. The inconceivable scale of the natural disaster brings people together across religious boundaries for a time.
With Dr. Fidon Mwombeki from the Northwest Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, the Council appoints an African theologian for the first time as the new General Secretary of the UEM as of 2006. The Council also decides on the co-financing of a lecturer position at the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey (Switzerland) and appoints Rev. Dr. Claudia Währisch-Oblau as the new head of the Evangelism program area, who previously coordinated the "Congregations of Foreign Languages and Origin" work area in the Germany region.
The Council, meeting in Mbou/Bafoussam (Cameroon) at the invitation of the Evangelical Church in Cameroon (EEC), decides to redesign the youth and women's pre-consultations for a better voice of women's and youth representatives at the General Assemblies. As a first step in a restructuring process, the Council forms an "Organizational Development Task Force" charged with designing an organization-wide corporate identity and developing a proposal for the future UEM structure. A "Gender Commission" is established. The UEM supports the unconditional basic income in Namibia (BIC project) and receives the donation seal of the German Central Institute for Social Issues (DZI) for the first time.
An international partnership conference is held in Dar-es-Salaam (Tanzania) as a starting point for subsequent joint partnership arrangements. The UEM's international youth volunteer program celebrates its 25th anniversary. An international youth consultation on interfaith dialogue is held in Malang (Indonesia); the long-standing Ecumenical Community, where women from all three regions lived and worked together for a period of time, is discontinued; and the UEM communion provides support to local member churches GKPM and BNKP following severe earthquakes in Mentawai and Nias (Indonesia).
With multiple and numerous natural disasters facing members in Africa and Asia, the Council recommends that UEM members better prepare for disasters of any kind. This includes, for example, training their own staff to provide expert first aid in emergencies. The Council resolves to continue its anti-HIV/AIDS work and declares its solidarity with the Papuans by condemning all forms of racism. The UEM is particularly involved in the West Papua Network. JPIC's work focuses on promoting the peace process in the Great Lakes region of Central Africa and on helping politically persecuted pastors and UCCP workers in the Philippines. The Department for Women, Youth and Children supports a project of the Baptist Church in the eastern Republic of Congo for trauma healing for victims of sexual violence. Additional support is provided to the Methodist Church in Sri Lanka for its outreach ministry to civil war refugees. The Council expresses solidarity with the UCCP Church in the Philippines and its members who are victims of extrajudicial killings or torture. Furthermore, the Council encourages German members to consider how people with migrant backgrounds can be better integrated into local congregations and their church structures. The Clinical Pastoral Education program in the Philippines and Indonesia will continue. The Hester-Needham House will be converted into the multigenerational house "Living on the Wupper" without affecting its use by the UEM sisterhood.
The fifth UEM General Assembly will take place on the North Sea island of Borkum at the invitation of the Evangelical Reformed Church. The motto is: "Liberated to the glorious freedom of the children of God" (Romans 8:21). Delegates from the three regions adopt a statement on the corporate identity of the UEM with five main areas of work: advocacy, development, diakonia, evangelism and partnership work. A new Training & Empowerment department is established, responsible for leadership training, mission lectures, volunteer programs, the scholarship program and interregional women's work. A restructuring of the organization with amended bylaws is approved, reducing the size of the Council to a total of 14 members and the Executive Board to a maximum of eight members, and shortening the legislative period to four years with a biennial General Assembly. The UEM Council now meets twice a year, while the Executive Committee and the French working language are abolished. Double-entry bookkeeping in accounts and an annual interregional planning week of all UEM departments from the three regions will be introduced.
Deaconess Regine Buschmann of the von Bodelschwingsche Foundations Bethel is elected moderator of the UEM for the first time. She already knows the UEM from her time as a young volunteer in Tanzania.
The plenary assembly decides that climate justice and environmental protection should become the programmatic focus of the coming years. An exhibition on the topic is opened on Borkum, which can be visited in congregations and institutions throughout Germany.
The Ecumenical Workshop Wuppertal becomes the "Centre for Mission and Leadership Studies" (CMLS) and the Ecumenical Workshop in Bethel becomes the "Centre for Mission and Diakonia" (CMD). The UEM's international diaconia program is launched in Bethel. In the German region, the Young Adult Network is founded, in which the majority of former participants in the volunteer program come together. The South-South Volunteer Program between the UEM churches in Africa and Asia is established.
The resolutions passed at the plenary assembly concerning the updated constitution will be announced and implemented in all three regions in the course of the year as part of a transitional arrangement. As part of the organizational restructuring, the UEM introduces a corporate design with a new UEM logo for the first time. Dr. Fidon Mwombeki is elected to the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) for six years, making him the first and so far only African theologian in an German EKD governing body.
The sixth General Assembly takes place at the invitation of the East Coast Diocese (ECD) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELCT) in Bagamoyo near Dar-es-Salaam (Tanzania), under the motto: "Culture, Violence and the Churches". The Council decides to renovate the Ecumenical Workshop "on the Holy Mountain" in Wuppertal. The UEM becomes a sending organization of the "Weltwärts" youth program, which is supported by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation.
This year's Council meeting is being held in Marburg at the invitation of the Evangelical Church of Hesse-Nassau and the Evangelical Church of Kurhessen-Waldeck. The building of the Ecumenical Workshop in Wuppertal must be extensively renovated due to the strict applicable fire protection guidelines in North-Rhine Westfalia (Germany). It is decided to conclude an agreement with the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland on a joint limited liability company called "Internationales Evangelisches Tagungszentrum Wuppertal" or "Tagungshaus auf dem Heiligen Berg". In Bethel, the head of the Diaconic Program, Angelika Veddeler, introduces the international Master's program Diaconic Management in close partnership with the Institute for Diaconic Science and Diaconic Management (IDM). Rev. Dr. John Wesley Kabango, expert in development work from Rwanda begins his work at the UEM in Wuppertal as head of the Africa department, succeeding Polisi Kivava from the DR Congo.
The seventh UEM General Assembly takes place at the invitation of the Karo Batak Church (GBKP) in Berastagi (Sumatra/Indonesia) under the motto "Pursue Peace with Everyone - Living with other Faiths" (Heb. 12:14). The around 70 delegates from the three UEM regions agreed to set up "Safe Spaces" to discuss differing views on human sexuality. The Pak Pak Dairi Church (GKPPD) is accepted as a new member of the UEM communion. The Council adopts a concept on financial support for programs and projects. In order to increase donations from the UEM regions of Africa and Asia, the fundraising campaign "United in Action" is founded. The donations generated from this are used to support projects - for example for children in need - in Africa, Asia and Germany. For fundraising within the African members, for example, "advocates" are appointed and the "Walk a mile" fundraising marches are held regularly in Indonesia.
Typhoon Hayan leaves a trail of devastation in the Philippines and the survivors without shelter. The UEM communion supports the local member church UCCP and provides emergency aid. The "UEM Prayer Alerts" are sent out digitally for the first time; they are a collection of intercessory prayers from the member churches. The international conference "Preaching in Times of HIV/AIDS" is held in Bukoba (Tanzania), resulting in a publication of the same name. The UEM Council decides to hand over the more than 100-year-old mission house in Bethel to the von Bodelschwinghschen Foundations Bethel because of the need for extensive renovation work.
The eighth UEM General Assembly will take place at the invitation of the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland in the new Evangelical Conference Center on the Holy Mountain in Wuppertal. The motto is: "Child poverty and trafficking, a challenge to the churches". UEM introduces a "Gender Policy" and welcomes the close cooperation between the churches in eastern Congo as well as in Rwanda and Burundi.
At the second Council meeting in Salatiga (Java/Indonesia), Volker Martin Dally is appointed as the new General Secretary with effect from February 2016. The theologian, who comes from the Evangelical Church in Kurhessen-Waldeck, already knows the UEM from his time working in Java and Wuppertal. The first graduation of the international "Master in Diaconic Management" and the foundation of the international alumni network "Diaconic Management" will follow.
The ninth UEM General Assembly will take place in Rwanda at the invitation of the Evangelical Anglican Church (EAR) and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPR) with the motto "Share the good news - Grace and Faith in Action". For the first time, a partnership award will be given to exemplary church partnership projects. This award will be presented at every Assembly in the future. In a small ceremony the delegates of the member churches celebrate the 20th anniversary of the United Evangelical Mission. The peace network APRED presents itself to the delegates of the Assembly with a theater performance by young adults. Indonesian theologian Willem Simarmata, formerly Ephorus of the large Indonesian HKBP church and former UEM scholarship holder, becomes UEM's new moderator.
Constant eruptions of the Sinabung volcano in North Sumatra (Indonesia) pose a permanent challenge to the Karo Batak Church. In the run-up to the Reformation anniversary, the UEM joins the three North Rhine-Westphalian churches Evangelical Church in the Rhineland, Evangelical Church of Westphalia and Lippische Landeskirche in the celebrations surrounding the ecumenical annual motto "Weite wirkt" ("Widening Works"). The UEM launches its bilingual poster campaign "The Smile of the Gospel".
The world is celebrating 500 years of Reformation. The UEM is visibly represented at the German Protestant Kirchentag in Berlin with a digital educational booth and numerous events. The Council meets in Tagaytay, Philippines, at the invitation of the UCCP. The international Council meetings are organized digitally for the first time with the help of a "cloud" that ensures an Internet connection and makes meeting documents available online even at remote meeting locations. Evangelism Contact Persons (ECPs) are appointed for the first time in a variety of member churches as part of a participatory evangelism program. The Council also decides on the conceptual development of a learning program called "Global Learning in Ecumenical Perspective", or GLEP for short, which takes advantage of the global ecumenical character of the UEM and shows new ways for international common learning.
In cooperation with the World Council of Churches, the World Communion of Reformed Churches and other cooperation partners, the UEM organizes the first "Summer School" in Wuppertal, which focuses on peace, conflict transformation and the protection of human rights. After more than 50 years of the German UEM magazine "In die Welt - für die Welt", the publication is updated in terms of content and layout and becomes the "VEM Journal".
The tenth General Assembly will take place in Parapat (North Sumatra/Indonesia) at the invitation of the three member churches GKPA, GKPS and HKI under the motto "Being salt of the earth: acting together in resisting violence and extremism towards peace, justice and reconciliation". For the first time since 2008, the UEM constitution will be amended in some points. In the future, the General Assembly will meet every three years, and a legislative period will now last six years. The Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA), the Rhenish Church South Africa and the Evangelical Church in Kalimantan (Indonesia) are admitted to the UEM communion. With these three new member churches, the UEM communion now grows to a total of 39 members. The first international summer semester is held at the Kirchliche Hochschule Wuppertal/Bethel.
The UEM publishes its book "Mission still possible? Global Perspectives on Mission and Mission Theology" and makes it available to a wide audience at the World Mission Conference in Arusha. In their contributions, the authors explore the extent to which the UEM's understanding of mission, which was adopted in 1993 and 1996 respectively, is still relevant more than 20 years later and what new challenges the churches have to face worldwide. A first think tank on the new educational concept "Global Learning in Ecumenical Perspective" will take place in Germany. Two more think tanks will be held in the Asia and Africa region in the two following years.
After Sophie Lizares Bodegon from the Philippines and Pastor Sonia Parera-Hummel from Indonesia, the third Executive Secretary from Asia, Pastor Dr. Dyah Krismawati from the Javanese church GKJW, begins her service at the UEM in Wuppertal as head of the Asia department.
The second Council meeting will take place in Bukoba, Tanzania, at the invitation of the Northwest Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania. Afterwards, more than 70 representatives of Christian churches, Judaism, Islam and Buddhism will meet on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar. With a peace march and a joint message, they set a sign against extremism and violence for peace and inclusive communities.
At the German Protestant Kirchentag in Dortmund, the UEM is visibly represented with a representative booth as well as with numerous events. The Council approves the establishment of a foundation in Indonesia. The international study program is launched in cooperation with the Kirchliche Hochschule Wuppertal/Bethel with students from Africa, Asia and Germany. A UEM alumni network is founded by former UEM scholarship holders under the leadership of Dr. Andar Parlindungan, the head of the Training & Empowerment department since 2014. The Asia Regional Office moves from the PGI building in Medan to its own house in Pematangsiantar. The international conference center on the Holy Mountain is taken over by the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland. UEM signs a cooperation agreement with the Pop Academy of the EKvW for the development of the new field of work "International Church Music".
It is the 25th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, with more than a million dead and repercussions through large refugee flows to the east of the DR Congo. The resulting unrest and violent conflicts continue until today. To this day, the UEM communion accompanies and supports its members in Rwanda and the DR Congo through humanitarian aid, peace and human rights work, and development projects.
Together with the World Council of Churches, the Protestant Church in Germany, Bread for the World and the EMW, the UEM is holding an international conference on sustainability and climate protection in Wuppertal under the motto "Kairos for Creation". In the so-called "Wuppertal Call" adopted there, the participating churches worldwide call for decisive steps to be taken to safeguard creation. Under the leadership of Timo Pauler, who has been in office since 2016 as Executive Secretary for Finance and Administration, the UEM is investing in a range of sustainable operational measures, from a combined heat and power plant to reducing paper consumption, new window insulation and a solar power system, in order to achieve as climate-neutral an administration as possible.
This year is essentially marked by the Corona pandemic. Due to the worldwide travel restrictions, meetings, conferences, seminars, projects, church services, devotions and other events mainly take place online, i.e. via Zoom, YouTube or Facebook. Virtually all employees are offered the technical option of working in a home office. As part of the "United against Covid-19" campaign, the UEM sets up a 1 million euro relief fund and establishes a "Corona Task Force". The "care & share" relief campaign of the co-workers and persionaries of the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland and the Evangelical Church of Westphalia results in donations of over 250,000 euros. The UEM staff also joins the fundraising campaign. In addition to the health threat, UEM members in Africa and Asia are also affected economically by COVID-19, as they are financially dependent on donations and collections in church services. They receive funding for their diverse aid projects upon application.
The board publishes a statement on racism, around the same time anti-racism trainings start. Furthermore, the German Regional Assembly decides on new forms of work with the establishment of networks and specialist groups instead of coordination committees.
Celebration! Both the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland and the Evangelical Church of Westphalia have decided at their main synods to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the international UEM in their congregations and partnerships. In view of racism in Papua and political persecution in the Philippines, both synods declare their solidarity with the oppressed brothers and sisters in faith in Asia.
The Corona pandemic continues to mark the UEM's programmatic work in its three regions. The General Assembly scheduled for fall 2021 is postponed to fall 2022 due to Corona. The Executive Board publishes a paper on the reorientation of UEM partnership work, which is discussed in all three regions. In the Germany region, the topic of "Racism and the Church" becomes a priority work. A joint list of seminar events in all three regions is published on this website.
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