The Journey so Far
The first meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Limuru in 1971 identified four themes for its work – Unity and Ecumenical Affairs; the Church’s role in society; Order and organisation in the Anglican Church (i.e. its internal life) and Mission and Evangelism.
Those themes have run as threads through successive meetings of the Council (and indeed of the Lambeth Conference). The Inter Anglican Standing Commission on Mission and Evangelism (IASCOME) is the latest instrument for providing communion-wide reflection and action on mission and evangelism issues. It is the heir to a distinguished history.
Partners in Mission Process
Following the first ACC Meeting the Partners in Mission process was instituted as the first Communion-wide program to enable the sharing of people, funds, ideas, insights, experience, prayer and information across the Churches of the Communion, with the intention of providing mutual support in engagement with wider society in each locality where the Anglican Church was set. Lasting from 1974 to the early 1990s it has proved one of the longest most extensive and deep rooted programs with a Communion-wide focus. A senior ACC staff member was appointed as Secretary (Director) for Mission and Evangelism with responsibility for encouraging and developing this program.
The process was based on the principle that the Church in each place took lead responsibility for mission in that place, but that the wider Church could provide both insight and resources to assist with that mission. At the same time, churches in the wider Communion, had lessons to learn from the gifts and experiences from each local Province and Church. The process was focused around consultations at which a province would invite representatives of partner Churches and organisations to assist it in identifying priorities for its mission and ministry; provide support for its work on those priorities: and through those who participated in the consultations, take back lessons and insights to the Churches from which they came.
Reports on the different consultations held during the second half of the 1970s were made to successive meetings of the Anglican Consultative Council but by 1981, the process had reached such a stage that the fifth ACC meeting set up an international advisory group on Mission Issues and Strategy (MISAG I). Its remit was to review mission issues and strategy; identify exceptional needs for mission and development calling for a Communion-wide response; and find ways and means of collaborating with other Christian bodies in mission and evangelism
MISAG I (1981-1986)
MISAG I challenged the pastoral model of mission inherited from the experience of England as being inadequate in situations where the majority of people were not Christian. It reviewed the progress of the PIM process thus far, identified lesson learned and provided detailed guidance for the process and for the organisation of consultations. It recommended a data-gathering process to enable a more transparent and open statement of the resources of people and money being exchanged across the Communion. It called for a gathering of representatives of mission boards (predominantly from what today is termed the ‘North’) together with representatives from the Churches of the ‘global South’ to consider the data gathered, to build trust and to provide for a more co-ordinated strategy
The Brisbane Conference (1986)
That Conference was held in Brisbane in 1986 following some data collection (which identified a number of problems in actually doing it). Its purpose was ‘to assist the Mission Agencies and Churches of the Communion to have a better understanding of current mission issues, Agency policies, practices and resources with a view to more faithful stewardship in God’s mission today’. It identified three particular issues to be addressed – the places of evangelism, development and ecumenical sharing in mission. Alongside a substantial review of the PIM process it provided a brief report on each of these issues and set up a Mission Agencies Working Group (MAWG) specifically to co-ordinate mission agency responses to PIM consultations; to assist the ACC in organising effective and meaningful data collection; to prepare guidelines for companion diocese relationships throughout the Communion; to investigate establishing a loan fund for the Communion and to prepare guidelines on development. This group was made up of mission agency representatives i.e. those who had some specific control over programs of exchange of people and money. It met from 1987 –1992.
The Conference also recommended that there should be a meeting of representatives of Churches from the ‘global South’ independent of the ‘North’ to discuss the issues they were facing.
MISAG II (1987-1992)
The Singapore Meeting of ACC (ACC-7, 1987) established a second ‘Mission Issues and Strategy Advisory Group’ with wider participation (from 14 Provinces and including five mission agency nominees from the Brisbane meeting) than the first. Whereas MAWG was looking at the practicalities of data-gathering, the PIM process and the developing Companion Diocese links, MISAG-II took up wider issues – evangelism in a pluralist society; theological issues emerging from the partners in mission process; ecumenical concerns; and theological education.
Its final report Towards Dynamic Mission contained an extended theological reflection on mission in contemporary contexts, and major assessments of the Partners in Mission process (including identification of ten Principles of Partnership to undergird partnership relations); theological education for mission and exchange and encounter.
MISAG II also encouraged a conference for representatives of churches from the ‘global south’ and recommended the establishment of MISSIO, a Standing Commission for Mission for the Anglican Communion, made up of representatives of provinces and mission agencies (combining both those engaged in running programs and representatives from the wider Church).
Although it passed on the data-gathering task from MAWG to MISSIO – that task proved impracticable and was dropped.
The Decade of Evangelism
Resolution 43 of the 1988 Lambeth Conference recognised that ‘evangelism is the primary task given to the Church’ and asked ‘each Province and diocese… in co-operation with other Christians, to make the closing years of this millennium a ‘Decade of Evangelism’ with a renewed and united emphasis on making Christ known to the people of his world’. This was to prove one of the most uniting, influential and far-reaching of any Lambeth Conference resolutions with responses taking place in every diocese of the Communion. One of the tasks of the successor to MISAG II was to encourage and produce an overview of the Decade.
ACC-9 meeting in Cape Town (1993) set up MISSIO – the first Standing Commission of the Anglican Communion. The Commission continued the work of previous groupings (a forum for provinces to review the mission of the Church; encourage the partnership of Churches and agencies; assessment of the PIM process etc.) but significantly, had the development of the Decade of Evangelism added to its mandate.
The major achievements of the Commission included a mid-point review
of the Decade of Evangelism (Kanuga 1995), the most widely representative
gathering of the Communion between the 1988 and 1998 Lambeth Conferences,
which produced the influential report Evangelism: The Cutting Edge of Mission
- with its ten priorities for mission in the Communion – and a range
of practical suggestions.
South to South
1994 also witnessed the long awaited gathering of representatives of Churches from the South. Taking place in Limuru, Kenya, in January, the Anglican Encounter in the South produced a statement ‘Trumpet from the South I – Maturity, Its Challenges and Responsibilities’, encouraged connections from south to south, and established a continuation group to maintain links and prepare for a second such Anglican Encounter. This subsequently took place in Kuala Lumpur in February 1997 and produced “A Second Trumpet”.
MISSIO concluded its work in 1999, producing its report Anglicans in Mission – A Transforming Journey . This contained a theological reflection on mission, emphasising mission as transformation. It drew out a number of lessons from the Decade of Evangelism. It highlighted the importance of theological training and formation in mission including calling for a Communion-wide review of leadership training to identify trends, needs and problems and how they could be addressed – a recommendation that has now come to fruition in the task group on Theological Education in the Anglican Communion (TEAC).
By 1999, the PIM process had virtually come to an end and new expressions of partnership and collaboration were emerging. Anglicans in Mission suggested that the term companionship in mission would be a more fitting expression to describe the journey of Anglican Christians in their Churches, provinces and agencies as they sought to reach out to the wider world. The report identified structures for collaborative working that had emerged within Churches and made proposals for pan-Communion structures in the form of the next Mission Commission and the work of a Director for Mission and Evangelism.
In 1999, the Anglican Consultative Council, at its 11th meeting in Dundee,
Scotland, accepted the recommendation from MISSIO to establish a successor
body, the Inter Anglican Standing Commission on Mission and Evangelism,
IASCOME, to continue the work.