- Jenny Smyth
Partnership, Projects and Pounds
Sitting here, enjoying the warmth and birdsong, I am in a reflective mood. I have come to Uganda to attend the CMS network meeting. The directors of Asia CMS, CMS Africa, CMS Britain, New Zealand CMS, CMS Australia and CMS Ireland meet regularly on zoom, then occasionally in person. Following the network meeting in Kampala, I am visiting some of the partners we work with. One aspect of these partnerships is sharing of resources, often financial. In line with good practice, I would like to meet those involved in the implementation of the work supported and some of the beneficiaries. However, as CMS Ireland is a Christian mission society, not a Christian aid agency, this demands careful thought into both the nature of the partnerships and how we relate to one another, as well as the impact of finance in the partnerships.
Firstly, as ‘members together of the body of Christ’ we strive towards partnerships of interdependence and equivalence, partnerships that promote our mutual flourishing. This has led us to question the word 'partnership' itself with its implication of distinct entities. Surely we are all one in Christ Jesus, one church, one faith, one baptism? How, then, can we best operate in unity respecting the decisions and priorities of one another? This becomes particularly challenging when finance is involved.
So, secondly, we need to be very careful of the finance itself - how it is shared and managed. Perhaps we need to start by untangling ourselves from our sense of ownership. As people who believe that all we have is given to us by God, to be used according to His purposes, our role is that of an entrusted steward. We also need to recognise the gross global inequalities that mean our having depends upon others not having. Money is also problematic because it is inextricably linked with power. Do we recognise the power we wield? Are we aware of its impact on our partner relations? How do we use the power we have as responsible stewards, as disciples, and as interconnected members of one body? An interdependent body of members differently gifted, equipped and resourced but sharing one Lord and one calling? A calling together to challenge injustice and demonstrate kingdom values of love, compassion and respect.
It is a privilege to visit the partners whose programmes we have supported through legacy funding. These organisations are very small scale and local. Each has developed from the vision of a Christian who wanted to respond to the needs of their community in the name of Jesus. The particular partners I intend to visit are widespread – Matugga, Kyangwali, Arua, Koboko and Kotido. CMS Ireland has a clear responsibility to ensure that funds released in support of these initiatives are used in accordance with the terms of the legacy, the project agreements, and to the best possible effect.
There are lots of questions that come to mind as follow up to the funding: what changes have taken place as a result of the activities enabled? Are these changes in line with the project goals and outputs? How has the funding supported the vision of our partners? However, I am most interested to hear from those who have been involved in serving their communities and those who have benefitted. I pray that the impact of these stories will spread far beyond Uganda, challenging and encouraging us all as we seek to make Jesus known through acts of loving kindness.