Following the pattern and recommendation of the previous Commission, IASCOME chose to hold each of its meetings in a different country, thus enabling exposure to four different contexts during the five-year life of the Commission. The importance of experiencing some aspects of local mission brought a living dimension to our thinking. Each venue brought its own unique contribution to our understanding of mission throughout the Anglican Communion.
In our first meeting in South Africa from 7-18 May 2001, members of the commission were exposed to the impact of the HIV and AIDS pandemic. Lynn Coull, a deacon of the Highveld Diocese highlighted the work being done in the diocese and the critical role the Church was playing in ministry to those infected and affected by HIV and AIDS in the context of post-apartheid South Africa where 4.5 million, or one out of every ten, people are HIV positive. Lynn pointed out that in the year 2000, 250,000 South Africans died from AIDS. This number will double in six years. Children and young adults are especially hard hit by the pandemic and it is estimated that 50% of current young people under 15 will succumb to the disease. These statistics were given a face when the Commissioners accompanied local Home Based Care givers as they ministered to persons living with AIDS in the sprawling townships that ring Johannesburg.
At the end of our meeting each member of the Commission received the challenge to address the HIV and AIDS situations in their own country. Commission member Sister Chandrani Peiris said, “Having considered mission and evangelism in the midst of HIV and AIDS, I am prepared to go home and challenge my community as to how we will reach out to those with HIV and AIDS in Sri Lanka, strengthened by the love and life we have found here in South Africa.”
Our second meeting took place in the historic city of St. Andrew’s, Scotland, from 16-25 June 2002. The Rt Revd Ted Luscom, former Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, gave us a detailed overview of the Church’s history, which was new to most members of the Commission. The present Primus, the Most Revd Bruce Cameron, continued the story-telling about the seven dioceses of the Province, many of them very rural and small in number. The program “Mission 21: Making Your Church More Inviting”, which is used by parishes to attract new members, has helped the Province in recent years. IASCOME members were sent out in pairs to all the dioceses for weekend visits, during which time they experienced warm hospitality and also had first hand encounters with the church’s work across the country. Many inter-Anglican links, both diocesan and personal, were formed during this meeting.
Our third meeting, from 1-11 December 2003, was held in the small town of Runaway Bay, Jamaica, so named because many slaves used this bay as an escape route. A history of Jamaica, and of the Anglican Church in Jamaica, was provided by the Rt Revd Harold Daniel, IASCOME member and area Bishop of Mandeville. The diocesan bishop, the Rt Revd Alfred Charles Reid, who hosted the Commission at a lunch in his home, further explained this history. Members went out on weekend visits to various parishes across the island, enjoying warm hospitality, seeing first-hand how the church is addressing various social issues, and participating in Sunday worship with parishioners, including confirmations which the Episcopal members of IASCOME were asked to administer.
Our final meeting was held in Larnaca, Cyprus, from 28 February – 9 March 2005. The Most Revd Clive Handford explained to us that the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East spreads across three continents, Asia, Africa and Europe. Apart from Jerusalem, the Anglican Church ministers mainly to expatriates from many countries around the world, who are seeking a home away from home. In many parts of the Province, the Anglican Church is one of very few Christian denominations registered for worship, and therefore extends hospitality to other Christian groups who are thankful to find safe places to meet within its walls. Visiting some of the Christian historical places of St Paul’s journeys highlighted our sense of calling to the mission of the Church. We visited the ancient Roman ruins at Salamis, where Paul, Barnabas and John Mark first set foot on the shore of Cyprus. The journey they took across the island to Paphos took on a new meaning, as we understood the distance and terrain they travelled. The burial places of Barnabas and Lazarus also spoke of the persecution of the early Christians. The many Orthodox churches are testimony to the enduring influence of Orthodox Christianity in the Greek section of the Cyprus.
Listening to each other’s stories
Each time we came together, we spent a significant amount of time sharing our own mission stories and relating what was happening in our provinces, churches and regions. This intentional listening focussed our attention on the realities of our mission contexts in the Anglican Communion today. Story-telling was a critical methodology out of which our agenda emerged. For example, members told of their own situations of war in the Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia and Sierra Leone, Christian/Moslem conflict in Nigeria, effects of globalisation in Brazil, Guatemala and Jamaica, interfaith tensions in India, poverty and the impact of HIV and AIDS in South Africa and Papua New Guinea, secularism in Britain, Australia, and the USA, the struggles of Aboriginal peoples in Canada and Tribal peoples in the Philippines, political and economic instability in Zimbabwe and the tsunami disaster in Sri Lanka. These personal challenges deepened and sharpened our discussions as we sought to discern God’s will for mission in the world. Many of our stories are included in this report.
Although English was the communicating language of the Commission, many members struggled with English as a second or third language. Unfortunately translation facilities were not available to us, so we eventually adopted a practice of breaking into small groups and reading aloud the texts of some of our documents, allowing time for questions and discussion. This method helped ensure a more equitable level of participation by all members of the Commission.