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Transformed and Sent: Reflections on Dimensions of Anglican Mission

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Transformed and Sent: Reflections on Dimensions of Anglican Mission

How are people to hear without someone to proclaim Christ? (Romans 10:14)

Do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds,
so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

Anglicans in Mission: The 1998 Lambeth Conference and Beyond

The 1998 Lambeth Conference, through its Section Reports, has given our Communion rich resources for reflection and faithful action. They deserve close study as we continue our long and sometimes difficult journey towards being a transformed and transforming church – that is, to being a people serving the mission of God in Christ.

MISSIO has received with special appreciation the report of Section II, Called to Live and Proclaim the Good News.  MISSIO gladly endorses the bishops’ insights and recommendations, and commends them to every part of the Anglican Communion for study and appropriate implementation.

Rather than cover the same ground, this section of MISSIO’s report focuses on matters which the Lambeth Conference did not address, or which MISSIO believes deserve further reflection. We have also posed questions throughout this section which we hope will stimulate reflection and action.

Mission: On paper or on the ground?

Meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe, MISSIO has experienced its fourth and final meeting as the coming together of joy and pain. The joy has come from a sense that its members have learnt to work together creatively and productively, and to celebrate the unity-in-diversity that comes from being Anglicans who are committed to mission from everywhere to everywhere. It has also come from hearing one another’s stories from around the Communion of local churches seeking to live and proclaim the gospel faithfully.

The pain has come from hearing other stories, those of struggle and suffering, as people have had to face great hardship, opposition or discouragement. Several MISSIO members were absent from our final meeting because situations of conflict, violence or illness compelled them to stay at home. In Zimbabwe we saw poverty and inequality, much of it the legacy of the past, but much of it perpetuated by the burden of international debt and by political and economic mismanagement. And we were reminded of people and communities all over the world suffering the effects of war, persecution, oppression, famine, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and so on.

As we prayed together each day in our conference centre on the northern outskirts of Harare, we remembered people in Kosovo, Southern Sudan, Central Tanzania, Indonesia and elsewhere. Many of them faced death or dislocation even as we sat around our tables, discussing the order of words on paper.

So we offer these reflections, and this whole report, conscious that we are servants of all God’s people around the Anglican Communion, and that what we say on paper needs to speak to those who are actually walking the holy ground of God’s mission, wherever they may be, and whatever the particular opportunities or dangers they face.

In your context, does “mission on the ground” mean dealing with suffering, conflict, oppression, poverty or any other circumstances which bring death rather than life? If so, how can you share your burden with others in the family of God? If not, how can you stand in solidarity with those who carry that kind of cross?

Mission as Transformation

Taking its cue from the presidential address of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the 1998 Lambeth Conference expressed strong support for the suggestion that the transformation of the church was a priority. However, there was little support for the idea, suggested by MISSIO at its third meeting, that the Decade of Evangelism be followed by a Decade of Transformation – perhaps because there was a reluctance to have a Decade of anything.
 
Decade or not, the process of transformation, begun by the fact that we are in Christ, needs to continue to reshape our communities and institutions, so that our Communion itself is a proclamation of the gospel. “We must walk the walk to talk the talk.”

The report of Section II of the 1998 Lambeth Conference begins with an affirmation that mission is God’s way of loving and serving the world. The sending God sent the people of God to participate in the mission of God. Section II also emphasises that the aim of God’s mission is the transformation of the life not only of individuals but also of society, nations and the created order (cf John 10:10).
The church (ekklesia) is the community called out of the world to be the instrument of God’s mission. If the medium is to be the message (Marshall McLuhan), only a church which is itself always in the process of being transformed can fulfil such a calling. As MISSIO spelt out at its second meeting (Ely 1996), “She [the church] must give increasing attention to the relation between mission and culture; have a more integrated understanding of the relation between justice and the gospel; and show awareness of the reality of structural sin as well as personal sin.”

What in your own church, needs to be transformed?  How might that transformation take place?

Transforming or conforming?

The transforming gospel addresses both personal and structural sin. 1  We cannot reduce evangelism to the transmission of a set of articles of faith without any sense of urgency to incarnate that faith in a world beset by injustice and oppression. Salvation, the biblical idea of wholeness or health, is too often reduced to the saving of souls rather than the whole person; and sin is seen as exclusively moralistic and individualistic, needing absolution from personal guilt. The call of conversion is often addressed exclusively to individuals without any reference to the corporate dimension – yet many people are both sinners and the sinned-against.

The vision of the missionary church is to work with God to re-invent the structures of human society so that they more closely reflect the purposes of God. 2 The awareness of the socio-political dimension of evangelisation 3 needs to be brought into the everyday life of congregations if we are to live as agents of transformation. “The gospel is about salvation from sin. But it is more than my personal salvation… The salvation which Jesus promised was the coming of God’s kingdom.” 4

Transforming mission does not just lead people to experience Christ, but to experience him in such a way that their faith communities experience both renewal and transformation. Many committed Christian students, for example, drift into nominalism within a few years of leaving university. The challenge here is to see mission as formative and transformative rather than just converting. 5
Christianity is not simply a religion. The first Christians were called “followers of the Way”. They were a transforming force in apostolic times. Their concern was not only to “talk the talk”, but to “walk the walk”. Transformation in this light means action to establish conditions where wholeness of life may be enjoyed. 6 While the word “development” might suggest that communities can reach a satisfactory level of growth, “transformation” suggests that growth does not end – that it continues until “the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our God and of his Christ” (Revelation 11:15).
To “walk the walk” means that disciples of Jesus follow the way of the cross. “The church on earth, as the church in via (on the way) remains marked by the sins of humankind and by its solidarity with the sufferings of the world… Sharp things that divide us can paradoxically turn out to be gift… The world is not used to such a possibility as this: that those on opposing sides should stay together… bearing each other’s burdens, even entering one another’s pain.” 7
This takes us to the heart of koinonia that is participation in the life of the crucified one (cf Philippians 2:6-8). The extent to which the church is seen to be one with human suffering is a telling sign of its identity as the body of Christ. 8 A transformed church will, like the individual disciple, bear the marks of the Lord Jesus (cf Galatians 6:17).

If you were to begin the journey to becoming a transformed church, how would you manage the pain of change, the conflict caused, the insecurity which many would feel?

The church and the kingdom/reign of God

Jesus came to announce the reign of God (Mark 1:14-15). This is the “good news”. In Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection, the coming reign of God becomes a present reality.

The church demonstrates this reality, as it:

  • offers life, not death
  • includes rather than excludes
  • aims for wholeness and health
  • lives by values that are different from those of “the world”
  • emphasises service rather than domination

 

The agenda of the church is rooted in the Old Testament (e.g. Leviticus 25, Isaiah 65:17-25) and finds expression in the New Testament (e.g. Acts 2:42-47). The notion of the Jubilee or “year of favour” is fundamental to the good news (Luke 4:18-19; cf. Isaiah 61:2). It is a time for remission of debt, freeing economic captives, enabling refugees to return home, and returning land and resources to the displaced. These marks of mission are made known in the advent of Jesus. The good news is Emmanuel, the God-of-love-and-justice-with-us. The promotion of the Year of Jubilee in 2000 is a significant and ecumenical mission event. We welcome the support given to it by the 1998 Lambeth Conference; we are grateful to hear of those Provinces and mission agencies/boards which have already committed themselves to it; and we challenge other Provinces and mission agencies/boards to make it one of their priorities.

The church cannot proclaim this good news simply by “having a mission” or by seeing mission as an external activity or programme. To put it more positively: the church must be mission – a community that incarnates the mission entrusted to Jesus and given by him to his followers (John 20:21). The world will never hear a gospel that is apparently contradicted by the character of the community that proclaims it. A profoundly transformed church alone can be God’s agent of transformation.

Review the mission activities and priorities of your Province (or diocese or parish). How do they relate to the rest of the church’s activities and priorities? To what extent do they arise out of your identity as the people of God, or out of the pressures of your context? How integrated are they with your liturgical life and patterns of ministry?

The identity and character of the church in mission

 “Only by constantly recalling that its true identity is Christ alone can the church escape from being just another religious institution. In her form… that is exactly what she is – a creed, a cult and a code of behaviour, with pundits, priests and prelates to manage them... Only by being Christ himself can the Christian community remain the source of that living water which is also the wine of life.” 9

When we use the Pauline image of “the body of Christ” we may be referring to the incarnate Christ, to the eucharistic body or to the mystical body, the church. The three are, of course, intimately connected. The church is the sacrament of the gospel. The church is the mission of God because it is the expression and instrument of the Sent One.

There can be no renewed mission if eyes do not meet in friendship, welcome, understanding and kindness. 10 The early church knew that chrestos (“kindness”) was only a vowel away from Christos. Respect, courtesy, kindness and gentleness must be features of the structures through which the grace of God is communicated.

How is the church in your context living as a sacrament of the gospel?

The emerging church

There are signs that the transformation of churches is underway as we approach the third millennium. This is a particularly acute issue for churches in the First World, where many are trying to disentangle themselves from top-heavy and inflexible structures, from resources locked into expensive maintenance of plant, and from “background” values shaped by the assumptions of modernism. Among others, the Alban Institute in the USA has been a pioneer in this movement, while the ecumenical Center for Parish Development in Chicago focuses on helping parishes to plan for transformational change. In Britain, theologians such as Robert Warren 11 and Robin Greenwood 12 are also creatively addressing the issues of transformation.

Around the Anglican Communion, the movement known as “Total Ministry” – that is, teams of lay and ordained people sharing responsibilities formerly undertaken by lone clergy, is gaining momentum. Some mission agencies (such as the Anglican Board of Mission – Australia) are seeking to model this approach through team structures.

Where do you see signs of a church emerging that is more participatory and less hierarchical, more communal and less institutional? What signs do you see that the church in your area is better able to proclaim the reign of God in its life and witness?

The Church in Mission: Doing, Having, Being

The challenge to be faithful witnesses to God’s transforming mission means that we have to re-think how we live out that mission.

It has been suggested that, whereas the church of the Christendom period did mission, and the church of the Enlightenment and modern periods had a mission, the emerging church is mission. This may be largely true of the “old” churches of Europe and North America. Churches which have always lived as minorities, especially in the two-thirds world, have long known that they are “mission churches” in this sense. But churches which have traditionally seen themselves as sending churches are also called to the new identity which they share with local churches everywhere: to be sent churches. 13

Who we are is integral to how we witness to the good news. God invites us – as God’s people have been invited in every generation – to be transformed into a sign, foretaste and instrument of the kingdom (or reign) of God. 14

  • As sign, the church points to the creating, loving, healing, just and forgiving God of the Scriptures, most clearly doing so in worship which marks it as a holy community of thanksgiving and praise.
  • As foretaste, the church embodies in its life the values of the reign of God, most clearly doing so in mutual love which marks it as a catholic (universal, all-inclusive) community of service.
  • As instrument, the church shares in God’s mission in the world, most clearly doing so in deeds and words which mark it as an apostolic community of witness.

 

The sent church is marked by a unity built around the presence of the incarnate, crucified and risen Lord in its midst, whom it worships, serves and proclaims. Jesus, the Sent One of God, draws us to himself, breathes the Spirit upon us, and sends us out again in his name. As people of mission, we are nourished, renewed and transformed by Christ’s presence among us. The spiritual life is, at its deepest levels, shaped by the God of mission.

In what ways is your church a sign pointing to the good news of God’s reign in Christ? Or a foretaste of the community of God’s redeemed people? Or an instrument for making the good news real and visible in your context?

The Five Marks of Mission

At its second meeting (Ely 1996), MISSIO began reviewing the “Five Marks of Mission” as developed by the Anglican Consultative Council between 1984 and 1990. We recognise with gratitude that the Five Marks have won wide acceptance among Anglicans, and have given parishes and dioceses around the world a practical and memorable “checklist” for mission activities.

However, we have come to believe that, as our Communion travels further along the road towards being mission-centred, the Five Marks need to be revisited. 15

The Five Marks of Mission (ACC, 1984 & 1990)
The mission of the church is the mission of Christ:
  • To proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God.
  • To teach, baptise and nurture new believers.
  • To respond to human need by loving service.
  • To seek to transform the unjust structures of society.
  • To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth.
Mission: Announcing good news
The first mark of mission, identified at ACC-6 with personal evangelism, is really a summary of what all mission is about, because it is based on Jesus’ own summary of his mission (Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:14-15, Luke 4:18, Luke 7:22; cf. John 3:14-17). Instead of being just one (albeit the first) of five distinct activities, this should be the key statement about everything we do in mission.

Mission in context

All mission is done in a particular setting – the context. So, although there is a fundamental unity to the good news, it is shaped by the great diversity of places, times and cultures in which we live, proclaim and embody it. The Five Marks should not lead us to think that there are only five ways of doing mission!

Mission as celebration and thanksgiving

An important feature of Anglicanism is our belief that worship is central to our common life. But worship is not just something we do alongside our witness to the good news: worship is itself a witness to the world. It is a sign that all of life is holy, that hope and meaning can be found in offering ourselves to God (cf. Romans 12:1). And each time we celebrate the eucharist, we proclaim Christ’s death until he comes (1 Cor. 11:26). Our liturgical life is a vital dimension of our mission calling; and although it is not included in the Five Marks, it undergirds the forms of public witness listed there.

Mission as church

The Five Marks stress the doing of mission. Faithful action is the measure of our response to Christ (cf. Matt. 25:31-46; James 2:14-26). However, the challenge facing us is not just to do mission but to be a people of mission. That is, we are learning to allow every dimension of church life to be shaped and directed by our identity as a sign, foretaste and instrument of God’s reign in Christ. Our understanding of mission needs to make that clear.

Mission as God-in-action

“Mission goes out from God. Mission is God’s way of loving and saving the world… So mission is never our invention or choice.” (Lambeth Conference 1998, Section II p121). The initiative in mission is God’s, not ours. We are called simply to serve God’s mission by living and proclaiming the good news. The Five Marks of Mission could make that clearer.

The Five Marks of Mission and beyond

We commend to each Province (and its dioceses) the challenge of developing or revising its own understanding of mission which is faithful to Scripture. We suggest two possible ways forward.

  • The Five Marks could be revised to take account of comments like those above. This has the advantage of retaining the familiar shape of the Five Marks.
  • Alternatively a holistic statement of mission actions could be strengthened by setting out an understanding of the character of mission. This would affirm the solemn responsibility of each local church to discern how it will most faithfully serve God’s mission in its context. An example of such an understanding is given below.

 

Mission is the creating, reconciling and transforming action of God, flowing from the community of love found in the Trinity, made known to all humanity in the person of Jesus, and entrusted to the faithful action and witness of the people of God who, in the power of the Spirit, are a sign, foretaste and instrument of the reign of God.

(Adapted from a statement of the Commission on Mission of the National Council of Churches in Australia.)

Whatever words or ideas each local expression of our Church uses, MISSIO hopes that they will be informed by three convictions:

  • We are united by our commitment to serving the transforming mission of God.
  • Mission is the bedrock of all we are, do and say as the people of God.
  • Our faithfulness in mission will be expressed in a great diversity of mission models, strategies and practices.

 

If you were to ask people in leadership positions in your Province (diocese, parish) whether they see mission as “the bedrock of all we are, do and say as the people of God”, how do you think they would answer?

Church Growth and Anglican Mission

In each of our four meetings, in four very different parts of the world, we have rejoiced to hear stories of the growth of the local church. We have ourselves seen communities faithfully worshipping, serving and proclaiming – sometimes in conditions of hardship, opposition, indifference or crushing poverty. We have been humbled by their courage and perseverance.

We have noted that among some Anglicans, “growth” is often measured by the number of new parishes or dioceses that have been created. At times this emphasis gives the impression, perhaps unintentionally, that numbers are the primary criterion for growth. Numerical growth is often to be expected as one of the fruits of faithful witness. During our meeting in Zimbabwe we have experienced the wonder of worshipping with very large Anglican congregations whose music and dance has left us breathless.

However, to all who share our commitment to the mission of God, we offer two notes of concern about an undue emphasis on numbers (whether of people, parishes or dioceses) in assessing church growth.

  • We hope that the emphasis on the number of new parishes or dioceses will be accompanied by attention to the quality of the growth that takes place. Church growth is also about such concerns as deepened commitment, spiritual maturity, more courageous discipleship, faithfulness in worship, service and witness.
  • We hope that the emphasis on growth as “church extension” – which has been a dominant model in the history of Anglican mission practice – does not veil a denominational imperialism. The mission of God is not about the triumphant spread of a particular church. Nor does creating more and more Anglican parishes necessarily fulfil it. Mission is the witness of the whole people of God to the good news made known in Christ. So we invite those of our Provinces and mission agencies whose energies are enthusiastically given to church-planting to examine their approaches and priorities, and to seek ways to engage in the kind of mission which builds the unity of God’s holy, universal and apostolic people, and so sets them free to engage with the world around them.

 

What understanding (or understandings) of “growth” operate in your situation? If you were asked, “In what ways is your church growing?” how would you answer the question?

Anglican Church Membership and Belonging

Belonging is a theme that MISSIO discerns as important in any discussion of mission.  For example, the bishops in Section II of the 1998 Lambeth Conference heard about the Iona Community in Scotland, with its strong sense of ecumenical mission combined with a strongly incarnational spirituality.  It seems to meet the need felt particularly among people in the West for intimacy, mutuality and personhood in community. 16

Young people, in particular, are not attracted to traditional church membership.  So the question arises: What kinds of belonging are appropriate in the church? Is there only one kind of belonging? 17  Obviously a church of mission needs to offer a sense of community and belonging, which is more satisfying and involving than institutional membership.

Both these illustrations find a basis in the important statement on unity adopted by the Seventh Assembly of the World Council of Churches (Canberra 1991).  Titled “The Unity of the Church as Koinonia: Gift and Calling”, it challenges churches to take bold steps in partnership. Two issues arise for Anglicans.  Are there limits to diversity?  How do we maintain fellowship between those who cannot accept each other’s views?  While there are no easy answers, we are encouraged to be aware that the heart of koinonia or communion is life with the Father, through Christ, in the Spirit.  This is the most profound communion possible for any of God’s creatures. 18  Christians are bonded with God in “a common mission witnessing to all people the gospel of God’s grace and serving the whole of creation”. 19

We belong in God to one another. The challenge in mission is to bring others to experience this same quality of belonging or koinonia.

When people join an Anglican parish in your context, what kind of “belonging” is offered? What procedures or structures do you have to help integrate new members into the koinonia (support, sharing, mutual care, solidarity) of the church?

The Church as Salt and Savour

There are some situations where Christian mission is conducted as if it were a military campaign, where conquest and victory are the dominant images of church growth. This leads some of MISSIO’s members to wonder what it means to belong to the church.

A member of MISSIO from Brazil reflects on this in the following way:

Many years ago (through the Crusades, the Inquisition, State proselytism, and so on) the church was occupied with baptising people as the condition of membership and eternal salvation. Even today some churches hold campaigns or crusades to fill up their pews. This view sees the church as a place to avoid eternal condemnation and to gain eternal happiness. In this perspective the growth of the church is measured by the number of members, who are regarded almost as “clients”. Being “dough” is apparently more important than being “leaven” (Matt. 13:33).

This is a temptation we need to resist. Adhering to God’s plan is more important than just belonging to a church. Obeying God’s call to justice and service is bigger than the issue of numbers in pews (cf. Isaiah 65:14-21; Luke 4:17-25). The church is no longer simply an ark of salvation, but God’s agent of mission into the world. The liturgy should express, as a celebration, the action of my faith in transforming society, the church and myself. So we need to recover the images of fermentation, of being salt, light, mustard seed. This is the true meaning of the catholicity of the church. In addition to numbers, it is important to consider the commitment and the maturity of the church community, according to its context.

Instead of spending so much time domesticating new believers, the church should remember its vocation to be a sign, foretaste and instrument of the mission of God. In this vision lay people, the people of the local congregation, are in the forefront. Church structures as well as the ordained ministry exist to prepare, animate and facilitate the quality of the church’s life, rather than simply looking enthusiastically for increased numbers of people. This ministry is called to be the means of empowering mission in order to transform the kingdoms of this world into the Kingdom of God (cf. Rev 11:15). The Christian community is a kind of task force to act for the transformation of world structures so that God’s Kingdom becomes a present gift here and now, in our history.

The key phrase in the church now is “fellowship-participation” rather than “authority- obedience.” In this church for the new millennium, we are invited not to succeed but to be obedient to Christ (John 20.21; Matthew 25.34ff).

So the vocation of the church in our time is to work for the transformation of people and society. It is our opportunity to serve, celebrate and transform, as followers of Jesus. Our goal is not to harvest but to sow. We will be known by our fruits (Luke 6.44, Matt. 7:20-21) and God alone will judge.

Within this perspective, we may begin to understand the meaning of belonging to the church. There are many kinds of belonging, and only God can judge them. Meanwhile, “be merciful just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36), because Christian faith is more akin to a new relationship than a religion (Matt. 25, I John). 20

What, in your experience, do parishes in your context emphasise more strongly: belonging to a community of fellowship and participation, or an institution of authority and obedience?

Companions in Mission

Elsewhere in this report we note the changes which have taken place in the patterns and structures of mission around the Anglican Communion over the past few decades. Here we wish to suggest that these changes – for example, the decreasing use of Partners-in-Mission consultations – give us the opportunity to reflect on the foundation of our relationships around the Communion. We suggest that the time has come to shift the focus in those relationships from partnership, which in many cases has taken on the flavour of a business relationship characterised by programmes and financial priorities, to companionship, which speaks of the priority of relationships, of sharing in solidarity.
 
We note in passing that a modified version of the ecumenical pattern of “round table” conferences, which embodies many of the principles of the PIM process, offers a possible new way forward. Partners in such a model are not observers or commentators, but full participants. A pilot “round table” conference is planned for Eastertide 2000 in the region covered by the South Pacific Anglican Council. This will go a step further than the former Partners-in-Mission consultation process.

Review the partnership or companion relationships between your Province (diocese, parish) and other parts of the Anglican Communion. What are the main features of the relationship? How much energy is given to the exchange of people and resources of mission and ministry? What place do financial matters have?

 "Unreached Peoples"

MISSIO has, from its first meeting, had a concern for the question of evangelism among people who have never heard the gospel. However, we wish to stress that there are “unreached peoples” in many different contexts, not just in those parts of the world which some describe as “the 10/40 window”. There are such communities within many existing Anglican Provinces – including those in societies once thought to be “Christian”.

We also wish to affirm that the prime responsibility for bringing the gospel to such communities lies with the nearest local church, rather than with missionaries from outside the context. Of course, the local church deserves support from the wider church, because we are all companions in the mission of God from everywhere to everywhere.
As Anglicans, we need to ensure that our witness among “unreached peoples” is thoroughly incarnational, expressed through a presence which identifies with their culture and language, and through a proclamation which sensitively expresses the Christian faith in terms that they can hear and make their own. (See also the next two sections below, on “Gospel, church, culture” and “Christian mission and other faiths”.) If a new Anglican church is planted in such a community, we will want to ensure that it is connected to the universal church through episcopal ministry.

The challenge MISSIO puts before each Province of our Communion, then, is to identify areas where there is little or no Christian presence, to seek ways of engaging in mission ecumenically among them, and to discern the most appropriate shape of that mission.

What kinds of people or communities in your situation might be fairly described as “unreached”? What would be “good news” for them?

Gospel, Church and Culture

Although there is undoubted truth and value in every spiritual and cultural tradition, this needs to be valued in the light of biblical teaching that all human beings are profoundly implicated in personal and corporate sin. There is, therefore, a need for discernment, so that we may be able to distinguish the good, the beautiful and the true, from the bad, the ugly and the false. For the Christian, God’s saving acts, as they are recorded in the Scriptures, particularly his saving acts in Christ, provide the criteria necessary for the discernment.

…The truth in each tradition has “attachment points” with the Gospel, so that when it is proclaimed in a particular culture, it can be understood and appropriated. It is in this way that the exercise of “reason” has to be understood in our times. The Gospel has the capacity for becoming comprehensible to people of every intellectual tradition, world-view and spiritual belief.

…The Scriptures and the Fathers teach that it is God’s will that all things should find their fulfillment (anakephalaiosis) in Christ (Eph 1:10 and Irenaeus). This is particularly true of the authentic spiritual insights and aspirations of every culture and tradition. 21

The 1996 Conference on World Mission and Evangelism in Salvador, Brazil 22 was a significant ecumenical event.  Among the many themes it addressed, we welcome the Conference’s recognition that the relationship between the gospel and human culture is complex and dynamic.  We need to appreciate that the gospel illuminates, challenges and transforms culture as much as culture illuminates and incarnates the gospel. 23

In mission history the gospel has too often been identified with the culture of the missionary. The case study of the experience of Anglicans in Canada, included in this report (Chapter VIII), makes this point vividly.  Only in this century has our Communion begun to learn how to distinguish Anglo-Saxonism from Anglicanism.  The gospel is not only a transforming challenge to human culture, but also to the church itself. In the community of God’s people, the gospel and culture intersect – and often clash.  Wherever we are, wherever we incarnate God’s mission – the sacramental presence of Jesus Christ – we need to be alive to the transforming work of the Spirit within us and among us, as well as in the world around us.

What is the experience of your Province (diocese, parish) of the relationship between indigenous culture(s) and the gospel? How does the local church deal with tensions between the values of the gospel and the values of local culture?

Christian Mission and other Faiths

The Section II report of the 1998 Lambeth Conference includes thirty theses on Christian responses to people of other faiths (p138). MISSIO sees no need to add to what is there, and commends it for study and action, along with the report of the Interfaith group. We include its resolution here for easy reference.

1998 Lambeth Conference
Resolution VI.1 – On Relations with People of Other Faiths

This Conference:

  • having heard about situations in different parts of the world where relations between people of different faiths vary from co-operation to conflict, believes that the approach of Christians to people of other faiths needs to be marked by:

i     commitment to working towards genuinely open and loving human relationships, even in situations where co-existence seems impossible;
ii    co-operation in addressing human concerns and working for justice, peace and reconciliation for the whole human community;
iii   frank and honest exploration of both the common ground and the differences between the faiths;
iv   prayerful and urgent action with all involved in tension and conflict, to understand their situation, so that everything possible may be done to tackle the causes of conflict;
v    a desire both to listen to people of all faiths and to express our own deepest Christian beliefs, leaving the final outcome of our life and witness in the hands of God.
vi   sharing and witnessing to all we know of the good news of Christ as our debt of love to all people whatever their religious affiliation.

  • recognises that by virtue of their engagement with people of other faiths in situations all over the world, Anglican Christians are in a special position to explore and develop genuinely Christian responses to these faiths;
  • also recognises that the Network for Inter-Faith Concerns (NIFCON) has been established by the ACC at the request of the last Lambeth Conference as a way for sharing news, information, ideas and resources relating to these concerns between provinces of the Anglican Communion;
  • recommends:

i     that NIFCON be charged to monitor Muslim-Christian relations and report regularly to the Primates Meeting and the ACC;
ii    that the ACC consider how to resource NIFCON adequately both in personnel and finance;
iii   that all the other official Anglican networks should be encouraged to recognise the inter-faith dimensions to their work.

How does your Province (diocese, parish) relate to people of other faiths? What are the points of co-operation or conflict? How might the ideas of the 1998 Lambeth Conference help you relate better to people of other faiths?

Mission and Anglican Identity

This is a large topic that lies outside MISSIO’s primary agenda. However, questions do arise about whether there are distinctively Anglican ways of doing mission or evangelism, and whether Anglican structures – such as the parish and diocese – help or hinder our mission endeavours.  We encourage the widest possible study of those parts of Section II of the 1998 Lambeth Conference Report, which deal with the missionary congregation and the missionary diocese. 24

It is both possible and imperative that our ways of being Anglican – in our liturgies, our spiritualities, our parochial and diocesan structures, our interactions with the wider community – set us free to be transformed and transforming communities of mission.  But this does not happen automatically.  It demands a firm intention to examine all we are, do and say in the light of God’s call to us to be united communities of holy worship, catholic ministry and apostolic mission.

This is sometimes easier to do at the level of the local parish, where the life of the church is seen most concretely in communities of “memory, meaning, celebration and hope”. 25 But, while the parish is wholly church, it is not the whole church.  As the 1998 Lambeth Conference said: “While we are firm in our commitment to the local congregation, that does not make us congregational. 26  The diocese has a key role to play in helping mission to happen in ways that are united, holy, catholic and apostolic. 27

  • The diocese can find opportunities for growth into unity, for example, by exercising joint responsibilities through face-to-face encounters that bring diverse parishes and other communities together.
  • Dioceses need to encourage holiness by helping each parish to make spiritual transformation through worship a priority, and linking it to the exercise of worshippers’ vocations in society.
  • The catholic scope of the church is made known through diocesan links between local parishes, with the Province, the Communion and the wider church.  The diocese is often uniquely placed to raise the eyes of parishes beyond their own boundaries, and to encourage them to be more inclusive and diverse in their membership.
  • The diocese can remind the parish of its apostolic charter and its fundamental call to mission in areas of both “vitality and despair”.
How do your structures, procedures, relationships and use of resources promote or hinder your diocese’s responsibility to build local churches which are united, holy, catholic and apostolic? Do your parishes experience the diocese as supportive and encouraging, or as demanding and draining of resources?

Conclusion

MISSIO offers these reflections, and the questions we have posed, as a resource to our sisters and brothers who lead us in the amazingly diverse contexts of mission and ministry which make up the Anglican Communion.

Our hope is that they will stimulate further reflection and action, so that, throughout our Communion, we may know the transforming presence of the God who has been revealed to us as the transforming community of the Sender, the Sent One, and the Strengthener of all who go.

Notes

1. Janet Hodgson, “Decade of transformation” in Colin Craston (ed) 1992. By word and deed: Sharing the good news through mission. London: Church House Publishing, pp.14-32.

2. Paper by Dr Sebastião Gameleira Soares at MISSIO’s third meeting (Recife, Brazil 1997).

3. In Latin America the word “evangelisation” is often used to describe the whole task of the church’s witness – what others might call “mission”. It is broader than the more specific activity of evangelism.

4. South African theologian Albert Nolan, quoted by Janet Hodgson in Craston, By word and deed, p.19.

5. Dr Vinay Samuel’s comments as Consultant to Section II of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, transcribed and distributed to the bishops.

6. The truth shall set you free. Report of the 1988 Lambeth Conference. London: Church House Publishing, p.43.

7. Response to the Archbishop of Canterbury in The truth shall set you free, p.292.

8. Report of Section IV, 1998 Lambeth Conference, p216

9. John V Taylor 1998. The uncancelled mandate: Four bible studies on Christian mission for the approaching millennium. London: Church House Publishing, p.29.

10. The images are those of the Welsh poet RS Thomas.

11. Robert Warren 1995. Being human, being church. London: Marshall Pickering.

12. Eg. Robin Greenwood 1994. Transforming priesthood: A new theology of mission and ministry. London: SPCK.

13. Darrell L Guder (ed) 1998. Missional church: A vision for the sending of the church in North America. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, pp 1-7.

14. Paul & Inagrace Dietterich 1994. A systems model of the church in ministry and mission. Chicago: Center for Parish Development, pp 6-11.

15. This discussion draws on Mike McCoy, “Going in peace, or breaking in pieces? Anglican unity and the mission of God.” interMission: An Australian journal of mission 4/1 (February 1998), pp.22-33.

16. Kathy Galloway’s comments to Section II of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, transcribed and distributed to the bishops.

17. Bishop Rowan Williams, Section Chairman, in comments to Section II of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, transcribed and distributed to the bishops.

18. ARCIC 1991. Church as communion. London: Church House Publishing, para 15.

19. From the Seventh WCC Assembly report, “The unity of the church as koinonia: Gift and calling”.

20. Frederick Denison Maurice, who distinguishes between gospel and religion, could help us a little more in this reflection. See the pre-Lambeth 1998 document, Section II, item 2.8, and the paper given by Sebastião Gameleira Soares to the Recife meeting of MISSIO, September 1997.

21. Towards dynamic mission: Renewing the church for mission. The report of MISAG II, 1993. London: Anglican Consultative Council, pp.11-12.

22. Christopher Duraisingh (ed) 1998. Called to one hope: The gospel in diverse cultures. Geneva: WCC Publications.

23. Called to one hope, pp.34-37.

24. Report of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, Section II.4 pp.147-166

25. Report of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, Section II.4 p.157

26. Report of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, Section II.4 p.150.

27. These points are drawn from an unpublished paper by David Ford, “What is the Diocese?” given at the Windsor Consultation, 5-7 February 1996, as reported by Tom Frame, “The diocese and Anglican mission” in interMission: An Australian journal of mission 5:1 (February 1999), pp.2-17.