Equipping and Formation for Mission
At the first and second meeting of IASCOME, significant attention was paid to the concerns of equipping and forming God’s people for God’s mission. We reviewed the background and the work of past mission commissions that referred to theological education and the work proposed in the Action Plan of the Primates’ Meeting (Kanuga 2001). We believe that IASCOME has a significant contribution to make to inter-Anglican conversations concerning theological education.
At our first meeting in South Africa (May 2001) we sought clarification about what is meant by theological education, mission formation, and clerical preparation. To assist the Primates Special Working Party on Theological Education, called for in the Action Plan, we articulated the following definitions:
Theological education as an overarching term to describe the study of God in service to the church, the academy and also for public discourse.
Mission formation as the empowering of the people of God in holiness, truth, wisdom, spirituality, and knowledge for participation in God’s mission in Jesus Christ through the Spirit. As such mission formation includes leadership training.
Clerical preparation as the specific training of the current and future ordained ministers (bishops, priests, and deacons) for service in and for the church.
IASCOME rejoiced that the Anglican Communion is growing rapidly and changing, especially in the Global South. Anglican Mission and other Commissions over the last two decades have noted that this change has brought about challenges and opportunities for theological education. These realities have led us to ask questions about changing paradigms in theological education that force us to look beyond clerical preparation towards mission formation. This Commission is prepared to ask hard questions about church and theological education because God’s mission is larger than promoting Anglicanism.
The Commission recognised that there are a range of theological education models in the Anglican Communion today that are specifically orientated towards the preparation of clergy, often in difficult circumstances. These models need to be supported and encouraged as an important contribution to theological education. Whilst appreciating this tradition, we recognise that this approach does not prepare the whole people of God for mission. And even within the preparation of clergy, the emphasis on contextual and local theological understandings of mission and mission practice are rarely present or fully embraced.
We can imagine that some of the current theological education centres and models could be broadened to be centres for mission formation primarily for all God’s people including the ordained. And secondarily these centres could offer clergy preparation for the furtherance of mission. If this is to happen effectively, theological education needs to be refocused around a formation that is more than just in-formation. Theological education for mission formation is grounded in and shaped by local contexts, and must be about both personal holiness and the affirming of life in wider society and the world. Such centres might form mission educators who could then advance other formation models. We learned of similar mission educators in such diverse contexts as Scotland (Mission 21) and Papua New Guinea.
We heard about emerging efforts across the Communion to advance theological education committed to mission formation. The Commission commented on and encouraged the development of the consultation for Anglican Contextual Theologians and an International Fellowship of Parish Based Missiologists. We believe that these and other ventures across the Anglican Communion will advance theological education and with strong missiological commitments. We will be inviting others to inform the Commission about similar initiatives.
At our second meeting in Scotland (June 2002) we reviewed recent developments in the Anglican Communion’s concern for theological education with particular attention to mission formation. We noted the following:
Mid-point Review of the Decade of Evangelism held in Kanuga USA in 1995, in their report to Missio, The Cutting Edge of Mission, contains a major section on ministry to the whole church, ministry of laity and empowering the whole people of God.
Missio, (the Mission Commission of the Anglican Communion) in their final report to the Anglican Consultative Council 11, 1999, Anglicans in Mission: an Transforming Journey, acknowledged that the Decade of Evangelism highlighted the need for training and formation for leaders in mission and called for a Communion-wide review of such.
Anglican Consultative Council 11 (Dundee, 1999) accepted the recommendation from Missio in their resolution 11.
The Chair’s Advisory Group to the new Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Mission and Evangelism in September 2000 suggested a process for the new Commission to follow in fulfilling the Missio generated ACC resolution.
The Primates Meeting at Kanuga, (March 2001) called for a Special Working Party to analyse and give advice to the Primates on theological education around the Communion. IASCOME was noted as a resource for this work.
IASCOME produced a communication to the Primates Special Working Party of its priorities for mission formation at its meeting in South Africa (May 2001).
The Primates Special Working Party met in October 2001 and a report was produced for the Primates Meeting that proposed five recommendations on theological education.
IASCOME sponsored the Anglican Communion’s Provincial Mission and Evangelism Co-ordinators Consultation in Nairobi (May 2002) that noted the strategic priority for training in evangelism.
IASCOME at its meeting in Scotland (June 2002) heard reports from affiliated networks and projects with related interest in mission formation including: the International Fellowship of Parish Based Missiologists, The Anglican Contextual Theologians Network, and the Global Anglicanism Project.
Concern for mission formation will be given top priority at the Mission Organisations Conference in Cyprus (February 2003) sponsored by IASCOME.
On the basis of this review and consideration of the
report of the Primates, the Commission made a number of proposals to the
Primates Special Working Party on Theological Education about an additional
term of reference on Mission Formation and membership of the Action Groups.
IASCOME therefore recommends:
that ACC-12 re-affirms IASCOME’s mandate to continue fulfilling the initiatives begun with Missio and ACC 11 with respect to leadership training and formation for mission.