“Christ chose some of us to be apostles, prophets, missionaries, pastors and teachers, so that his people would learn to serve and his Body would grow strong. This will continue until we are united by our faith and by our understanding of the Son of God. Then we will be mature, just as Christ is, and we will be completely like him” (Ephesians 4:11-13 Contemporary English Version).
The issue of equipping the ordained and lay leadership of the Anglican Church for ministry and mission was raised many times during the Decade of Evangelism and before that at the 1988 Lambeth Conference. 1 The Report of the Mid-Decade Review Conference in Kanuga contained major sections on: the ministry of the whole church, the ministry of laity in the world and in the church, empowering the whole people of God for his mission and ministry, a theology of lay ministry, the ordained ministry. 2 These headings indicated the complexity of the issues involved.
The survey which was sent to Provinces after the mid-point review of the Decade of Evangelism Conference at Kanuga, North Carolina asked the question, “What changes, if any, are planned (present and future) in the training of clergy/laity for mission of the church?”
The West Indies response was representative: Mission must shape our ecclesiology and the objectives of training for ordained and lay ministry. Indeed there must be mutual and collaborative ministry, inspired and motivated by a common sense of participation in God’s mission. This way is the way forward.
The Report of the Second Mission Issues and Strategy Advisory Group (MISAG II) states: Effectiveness in mission depends upon the whole people of God being adequately equipped and trained for the task whatever their sphere off involvement. Theological education therefore is of fundamental importance for this process of equipping the people of God for their mission and ministry in the world. 3
The same Report also stated that to be relevant to life and to meet people’s needs, theological education must address issues that concern all aspects of everyday life and worship – spiritual, social and material. Today, leadership training for mission is needed for both laity and clergy, and such training needs to be relevant to the lives of Anglicans currently in extraordinary situations such as war (Congo, Sudan, Papua New Guinea), oppression and flight (Rwandan and Sudanese refugees), and famine (parts of Tanzania). Anglicans in these contexts are doing theological education as they worship and witness to their hope in God in horrific circumstances.
The Sabah Example
For the past 20 years, the strategy for the Interior Mission has been to train and use young evangelists. This training is done locally by our own priests and workers in the Bahasa Malaysia language. Materials from various sources are adapted to suit our own situation . We plan to continue this trend for the Interior Mission.
Provinces and dioceses need to assess the curricula of their seminaries and other training institutions (including extension and in-service programmes) to ensure that they reflect a central concern for the mission of God. Curricula need to include specific missiological courses, but also, other subjects need to have missiological perspectives applied to them. For example, church history and pastoral care need to be informed by missiological perspectives. Biblical studies too, need to be taught in the same way. The Scriptures are missionary texts and need to be seen as the story of a missionary God. Paul's letters, for example, were written on the road to communities formed in mission and being formed for mission. In Martin Kaehler’s words, "mission is the mother of all theology."
Residential theological colleges, theological education by extension programmes and in-service models are all widely used around the Anglican Communion. A good example of the in-service model is the training of Maori priests in New Zealand. The five regions all have short winter and summer sessions, as most of the priests are non-stipendiary and have secular occupations.
Christian formation and nurture is basic mission work. In every cultural context Christians live on a mission frontier and need training to lead formation processes such as the catechumenate, the Alpha and Emmaus courses (introductory group study courses on Christian faith), nurture groups and cell groups, all of which play a fundamental role in equipping people for their Christian life and witness. A list of formation courses that have been used around the Communion during the Decade of Evangelism is available from the Anglican Communion Office, Mission and Evangelism Desk.
Cross-cultural encounters are important as a part of Christian formation. There is a need for people in training to have opportunities to exchange experiences and insights between different parts of the world. The team visits between the Dioceses of Lichfield, Sabah, West Malaysia, Kuching, and Qu’Appelle are an example of this. Another example is the Canadian programme enabling theological students to do a three or four month internship in another part of the Communion.
Our dialogue with people of different faiths must be taken seriously always remembering those who may be suffering from religious persecution where dialogue has been overtaken by hatred and violence. The Sudan, India, the Arab World and Indonesia have provided examples of this recently. The training of lay leaders takes place in diverse cultures and contexts throughout our Communion and needs to prepare people for diverse forms of ministry including sharing their faith in appropriate ways.
In many of the growing churches of Africa lay catechists and evangelists need to be trained to take responsibility for congregations under an ordained person who may be able to visit the congregation only a few times a year.
A Story from Brazil
A son told his father that he didn’t want to go to church one Sunday. The father asked for 3 sensible reasons to justify his position! The son replied, “The servers are lazy; the music is boring; the congregation is so complicated; I am fed up.” Then the father patiently replied with 3 reasons which would justify a change in the attitude of the son, and said, “My son, the church needs you; you are forty years old; and you are the parish priest!
MISSIO, recognising that its surveys of the progress of the Decade of Evangelism within dioceses and provinces have highlighted the importance and problems of leadership training and clergy formation, therefore requests ACC-11 to initiate a review within the Communion of leadership training and clergy formation to identify trends, needs and problems, and how they might be addressed.
1. The truth shall set you free: Report of the 1988 Lambeth Conference. Church House Publishing.
2. The Cutting Edge of Mission: Report on the Mid-point Review of the Decade of Evangelism, dealt with full-time residential training, the study of the Bible and mission, mission and contextual theologies; mission, pastoral theology and other faiths, courses, theological education by extension and continuing training.
3. Towards Dynamic Mission: MISAG II Report. p.36.