SOMA USA

History

Sharing of Ministries Abroad (SOMA) was founded in England in 1979 as a follow-on organization to the “Anglican Conference on Spiritual Renewal” held in Canterbury, England, immediately before the 1978 Lambeth Conference. Its purpose, as stated at that time, was “to bring God's healing and empowering to His people through renewal by the Holy Spirit, so that His prophetic purpose may be fulfilled for the Church and for the world.” The Rev. Canon Michael Harper, author of the best-selling Spiritual Warfare and other books, served as the executive director until 1993. The founding council included the Rt. Rev. Bill Burnett of South Africa, and the Revs. Terry Fullam and Chuck Irish of the US. For its first five years, SOMA operated principally through regional renewal conferences: in Singapore; Limuru, Kenya; and Suva, Fiji.

In response to appeals from those bishops who had attended the conferences and wanted follow-up missions to their own dioceses, Michael Harper established SOMA “national bodies” with renewal leaders in other countries: the United States (1985), Ireland, Canada, and New Zealand/Australia (this latter subsequently separated into two). Like SOMA UK, SOMA USA and the other new national bodies began sending out short-term teams to carry teachings, prayer and ministry on spiritual renewal to those dioceses in Latin America, Africa and Asia whose bishops invited them. By 1999 additional SOMA national bodies had been established in Singapore and South Africa; a Regional Representative for Latin America was appointed in 2001; SOMA Uganda was launched in 2002, and SOMA Nigeria in 2006. Other SOMA national bodies in the Global South are in the formative stage. SOMA’s motto is now “ministry from everywhere to everywhere.“ For example, SOMA USA has been bringing teams to the United States since 1996; and SOMA Canada sends teams in cross-cultural ministry between European-descendent congregations in the south and native American churches in the Arctic.

Since 1996 SOMA USA has also joined with other SOMA national bodies to send groups of teams to minister to Anglican churches at the Province level. In that year thirty-nine people representing fifteen nations -- including a bishop, priests, laity, and five National Directors -- went to Rwanda at the invitation of Provincial leaders to hold eight simultaneous diocesan conferences seeking healing in reconciliation in the wake of the 1994 genocide. Since then SOMA USA has sent teams to join with other SOMAs to minister at Provincial events in Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Sudan, Southern Africa, Malaysia, and South India.

While the main focus of SOMA’s ministry is short-term mission, SOMA International has continued to organize major conferences with global participation. SOMA sponsored gatherings with a renewal focus for bishops, their wives and other invited participants in Canterbury immediately before the Lambeth Conferences of 1988 and 1998; a pre-conference gathering of the Anglican participants in the International Charismatic Conference on World Evangelism in 1991; a Consultation on Community Transformation in Cape Town in 2000; and a Jubilee Celebration to commemorate SOMA’s twenty-fifth anniversary in 2004, once again in Canterbury. While these global conferences did not involve mission teams, the National Director of SOMA USA was a key participant in the planning of each event.

On Michael Harper’s resignation as International Director in 1993, the Chairman of the International Board, the Rev. David Harper, formed a small group to oversee the organization on an interim basis. Working with the National Directors, the group proposed the establishment of a collective leadership through a new Executive Group composed of members from both the Global North and the Global South. That proposal was approved by the International Board in 1998; comprehensive written Guidelines were adopted by the Board in 2000. David Harper continued to serve as chairman of the Board and, after 1998, of the Executive Group until February 2006, when he was succeeded by the Most Rev. Dr. Benjamin Kwashi, Archbishop of Jos, Nigeria.

SOMA USA -- like SOMA International in general -- is widely known and widely respected in the Global South of the Anglican Communion. For example, in 1995 the Missions and Evangelism office of the Anglican Communion Secretariat asked SOMA USA to help in organizing the mid-decade review conference for the Decade of Evangelism (G-CODE 2000). And National Director Edwina Thomas was one of a handful of non-Africans to be invited to the CAPA Conference in Lagos, Nigeria, in 2006.

Dr. Glen Petta was called by SOMA to be SOMA USA's National Director beginning in January 2010. He is a lay leader in the Diocese of Fort Worth, has been on SOMA's Board for eleven years, and has been significantly engaged in international short-term missions since 1996.