March issue, Global Mission/Companion Synods

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Accompaniment: A Theology of Mission
By Kathy Bolin
Director for Global Mission/Companion Synods – Southeastern Minnesota Synod

The attitude with which we approach other people and cultures matters greatly. As members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, we uphold an approach called accompaniment.

Accompaniment is a scriptural and practical way of understanding mission that has been articulated in the past few decades in dialogue between churches in the “global North” (those who historically sent missionaries) and churches in the “global South” (those who historically received missionaries).  Today, there are more Christians in the “global South” than in the “global North.” It is a different world than that of the earliest missionaries, and our understanding of and living out of mission must respond.

The accompaniment model was presented to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) by Latin American churches as a model for being companions with one another. The foundational scripture for this model is Luke 24:13–35, the Road to Emmaus passage. This story of Jesus reminds us that mission is a journey and that Christ is already present in encounters and visits wherever we go. Our companions may be individuals in our own community or our partners in Colombia, Tanzania, South Sudan or other countries around the world.

Luke’s Road to Emmaus passage illuminates to us how to accompany one other in our journeys. Accompaniment helps us to see mission differently. It brings your story and my story together to a place where we are both reconciled within God’s story.

One definition of accompaniment is: Walking together in solidarity in a way that practices interdependence and mutuality.  Accompaniment promotes:

  • Mutuality: We work to recognize that all of us have gifts to offer to God’s mission. Mutuality is built upon giving and receiving trust as we grow together.
  • Inclusivity: Our cultures filter and influence how we see the world and each other.  Inclusivity requires self-reflection and honesty about ourselves and our own communities and relationships.
  • Vulnerability: Jesus shows us that vulnerability (openness to relationship, giving up power) is God’s way of redemption.  It takes courage to be vulnerable.
  • Empowerment: When we can name and acknowledge that relationships have differences of power, and we strive to bring balance to those partnerships, we are working to empower one another.  Learning to let go of power – to become vulnerable – is an act of empowerment.
  • Sustainability: The accompaniment value of sustainability requires that any given relationship will require an intentional commitment of attention and time to build up all those who are involved.  The key to sustainability is listening, hearing and sharing.

As a synod, we are committed to encouraging this way of approaching interpersonal and intercultural relationships. Thank you for your partnership in expanding awareness about this important topic.

 For more on accompaniment and our connections with Colombia, Tanzania, and other global ministry programs, please contact Kathy Bolin at


March 2015 Issue      •      507-280-9457    •

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