Article from International YWAMer by Jim Stier, Chairman of YWAM
2004-01-17

During the recent GLT meetings in Singapore, we came to a place of resolution and peace regarding the relationship between YWAM and Mercy Ships. We have heard many questions from YWAMers regarding these changes and are eager to respond to your concerns.

In the year 2000, it came to our attention that Mercy Ships was following a course that was more independent of YWAM than we as the GLT had previously been aware. We immediately set up a group to dialogue with Mercy Ships about this and that dialogue has been proceeding since.

By the time of our GLT meetings last year, the board of Mercy Ships asked us for recognition of their status as a sovereign organization with some form of special linkage to YWAM. We gladly gave that recognition in a spirit of blessing. We then had further meetings to define the exact nature of their independence. The most important meeting was one between a team from the GLT led by Iain Muir and a team from Mercy Ships composed of members of their board and staff. There was a good spirit of gracious and clear dialogue, and during the proceedings the Mercy Ships team declared that they would prefer to be a completely separate ministry. This seemed good to the GLT team as well, and that was the decision that was made. Mercy Ships is no longer a part of YWAM.

Over the years, Mercy Ships had felt compelled by their special circumstances to do some things that aren't a part of our YWAM DNA. They are paying salaries to their top executives. They have changed their statement of values and it now differs from the one we hold in common in YWAM. They clearly see their top authority as being their board, rather than the GLT. They can give well-thought-out reasons for each of these decisions, but the sum of them all is that Mercy Ships has evolved into something different from YWAM. For the sake of integrity and without passing judgment on each other, it is important and freeing for both organizations that we have dealt with these questions and come to a common agreement.

This is not because of any scandal or wrongdoing on the part of Mercy Ships or on the part of YWAM. This process was not so much like a divorce as it was like an adolescent that grows up and eventually wants more freedom. We as the parent organization were sad to see them go, but we were also happy to give this freedom to Mercy Ships.

Some in our YWAM ranks have sacrificed a lot to help launch Mercy Ships. For Mercy Ships to leave YWAM now causes feelings of pain to many of us. That is the case with several of us in the GLT. However, we trust that Mercy Ships will continue to bless the poor and needy around the world and in that sense we are confident that our initial investments will continue to bear fruit.

Our cooperation with Mercy Ships should now be better than it has been before, since we have come to the clear understanding that we are separate organizations. Before, Mercy Ships was operating on an independent basis, but known as part of YWAM. This caused confusion and hurt in both YWAM and Mercy Ships. Now that things are clear, there should be a greater ease of cooperation in those projects that we will continue to do together.

Mercy Ships will not continue to operate DTSes. This means that future workers in Mercy Ships will have to do a DTS to become a part of YWAM. However, those who already work with Mercy Ships and have completed any DTS up to and including those now in progress, will be qualified to move over into YWAM at any time. Those working in YWAM have the same freedom to become Mercy Ships staff. Some may opt to remain YWAMers and be seconded to Mercy Ships, or visa versa. It will now depend upon where they find their primary identity, just as it is between YWAM and any other mission.

YWAM does continue to have a ship ministry. Marine Reach is based out of New Zealand and is moving to expand internationally. This is in every way a YWAM ministry. Marine Reach specializes in smaller ships that will concentrate on ports that larger vessels can't reach.

I would like to say personally, as your chairman during the time of these negotiations, that I am satisfied that we have come to the best possible resolution of this situation. I honor Don Stephens for his focus and perseverance in developing Mercy Ships. I have some sense of loss and pain in seeing Mercy Ships leave us, and I think many of you will share this with me.

However, our sense of resolution and unity during our recent GLT meetings in Singapore underlined for me the importance of having this issue decided. Now Mercy Ships is free to do as they see fit, and we are free to pursue God's purposes for us. God moved often and deeply amongst us as we prayed for you all. The sense of expectancy, that God is on the brink of doing greater things, was very strong. The 4K vision creates a clear context for engaging the future. I believe that we are on the brink of greater multiplication than we have yet seen in our YWAM family. We hope that the same will happen with Mercy Ships. I believe that we should bless them and move on into the fascinating and fruitful future that God has prepared for us.

by Jim Stier