At its annual conference, which began June 25, the 311-year-old Anglican mission and development agency USPG announced it will change its name this fall. The decision was taken by USPG’s trustees following a lengthy consultation with churches and supporters of the charity.
Delegates attending USPG’s annual conference in London were given a preview of the new name and logo, which have been designed to reflect the contemporary nature of the work today.
The new name-United Society, to be known simply as Us-will be officially adopted at a launch event in November 2012.
“We are very proud of our heritage and take seriously our remit to work through Anglican churches to help global communities tackle poverty,” Canon Linda Ali, chair of USPG’s trustees, explained. “We were founded in 1701. To put this into historical context, in 1701 the composers Bach and Handel were still young men.
“The original title given to us by our founder, the Rev. Thomas Bray, was The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, which was later abbreviated to SPG. No doubt this name worked well in its day, but words like ‘propagation’ are simply outdated in the 21st century. So it was time for a change.
“Our new name, Us, is directly derived from USPG, so it speaks to our heritage, but it also speaks about inclusivity. There is no ‘them’; we are all ‘us.’ Our work-in partnership with the churches of the Anglican Communion-is for the benefit of the whole community, regardless of ethnicity, culture, gender, sexuality, age or faith. No one is excluded.”
The new strapline (advertising slogan) for the charity is “Every person. Every community. A full life.” This is designed to underscore the concept of inclusion and point to a vision of the future, where the words of Jesus in John 10:10 become a reality-the experience of life in all its fullness.
In 1965, SPG merged with the Universities’ Mission to Central Africa to form the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (USPG). Three years later, the Cambridge Mission to Delhi also became part of USPG.
Historically, SPG was a traditional missionary-sending agency. John Wesley, who founded Methodism with his brother Charles, was one of many hundreds of missionaries sent around the world by SPG. Over the decades, however, this view of mission shifted, and the focus today is on inspiring local communities to unlock their potential so they can overcome whatever barriers they face, whether economic, political or spiritual.
“We are very excited about this new milestone in our history. It demonstrates our commitment to living out the gospel and communicating this message with clarity,” USPG’s chief executive, Janette O’Neill, said. “There are hundreds of international charities doing excellent work today, but we remain one of a few agencies that are committed to supporting the churches of the worldwide Anglican Communion as they deliver transformational change.
“We hope our new name will help people relate better to the work we are doing today. We are opening a door and inviting everyone to join Us.”
USPG works in partnership with Anglican churches across the world to empower communities and support people in finding solutions to the challenges they face. USPG also supports initiatives to equip church leaders-both lay and clergy-to better serve their communities.
The new logo and other branding material will not be released until the official November launch. In developing its new name and brand strategy, USPG commissioned support from Public Life, a branding and digital agency that specializes in work for charities and other non-profit organizations.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, endorsed the name change, sending the following message to conference delegates: ”The worldwide church is called by God’s love to promote life in all its fullness for everyone through its work in mission and development. We are called to rediscover our interdependence, our mutuality; to rediscover what it means to be ‘Us.’ This understanding of human dignity and mutuality in the gospel has always been at the heart of USPG’s mission.”
Commentators on USPG’s website, however objected to the name’s dropping the reference to the gospel and, by implication, to Jesus.