Mission - Resources - Papers

Tradition and Transformation in Mission

By Christopher Duraisingh

It is a matter of great joy to be here. This is the first meeting of Anglican Mission Organisations after almost 17 years, I am told. Our being together reminds me of Luke’s description of the return of the missionary community of 70 that Jesus sent out, sharing their stories joyously. I wish and pray that we will discover during these days the importance, power and the central role of ‘doxological story telling’ from across cultures and continents in the process of our collective discernment and mutual empowerment in mission.

That we begin in the context of a meal is significant too. It’s a typical Anglican thing to do and we do it in style! The context of a meal is central to the mission of Jesus of Nazareth. The table fellowship that Jesus had with the sinners and out-casts was a central action in his proclamation that God’s reign had come. No wonder many kingdom parables in the gospels have to do with banquet. It is also significant in the life of the early Church both for the recognition and proclamation of the risen Christ. Eating and drinking together, a mark of companionship, as the French word, com-pan, having bread with, indicates is that Christian mission is essentially a restoration of relationships of all, with God and each other. A meal not only demonstrates the communion that exists between the churches that we represent. More significantly, I hope that we shall bear in mind that in the very manner in which the life of the communion is lived, our inter-contextual relationships are made manifest. So in it we also witness to what God intends as community for all humans and all creation.

The world cries out for signs that human community is possible. It cries out for signs of companionship and restored relationships. It needs it urgently as almost in every country, narrow group identities and primordial relationships of blood and belonging seem to set one people against another. We see this in so many intra-state conflicts. Our host the President Bishop, Clive Handford, in his welcome address, called our attention to the fact that we are meeting here in Cyprus, a country divided, in a diocese which includes Iraq where the fear of an imminent war looms large, and in a region where the Israeli-Palestinian murderous conflict continues to tear human communities apart day by day. How important that in such a context we remind ourselves that the mission of the Church essentially is a participation in God’s work of ‘restoring the relationship of all persons with God and each other’, as the catechism of the Episcopal Church USA describes it. So a central way of understanding mission to day is companionship, accompaniment, being present with.
We will return to this motif little later in the presentation.

Our theme

Our theme is Tradition and Transformation in mission. My task, as I understand it, is to provide some introductory reflections upon the theme and to initiate our collective task of spelling out the theme more fully in the days ahead.

Let me first briefly indicate my basic approach to the theme. It contains two nouns, ‘tradition’ and ‘transformation’ with the conjunction, ‘and’, linking them. Now, more often than not in our normal discourse we treat these two terms as distinctly different. It is partly because the terms are often understood as referring to continuity and change respectively. Hence, they are taken as polar opposites. Many therefore, tend to value one over the other depending upon their primary commitment to continuity or change. But I would like to invite you at the very beginning of this mission conference to take a very different route, a route suggested by the history of Christian mission. The Greek word behind the term tradition, traditio, literally means, a ‘handing over’ to another, another generation, what one has received. It is this act of ‘handing over’ that is critical. Note my use of the word, ‘handing over’ and not ‘handing down’. In the Passion narratives of the Synoptic gospels is the same word that is used to describe Jesus being ‘handed over’ to the soldiers. It is the same word that we use in the Eucharistic prayer when we read “ On the night when Jesus was handed over to suffering and death.”

Tradition, in its original meaning, then describes an action and a process in time and not an ‘entity’ that is constant and belongs to some one, or possessed by some group which may or may not be handed down but at all preserved as it is. The word cannot be best understood as a noun, certainly not a substance; it is rather an adverbial description of a process, namely, the process of ‘handing-over.’ This dynamic nature of the term ‘tradition’ must be recovered. It is in this sense, tradition-ing as a process is inseparable from mission. . Hence, the intrinsic relation between the ‘apostolic’, i.e. the missionary, and the traditioning process. The term apostolic, when used in relation to the tradtioning process, refers to a dynamic, other-directed, or missionary ‘handing-over’ of the story of the gospel from culture to culture and from context to context in such a way the gospel in understood and lived in a variety of ways.

Our affirmation of tradition as mission is rooted in our understanding of the mission God, in ‘handing over’ God’s Son for the transformation of the world. The mission Dei is God’s risk-taking handing over Jesus into the hands of sinful humans. It is this handing over that has become the singular act of the salvation and life for the world. In Christ’s death and resurrection God inaugurated a powerful process of ‘tradition-ing’ of God’s life into a broken creation for its transformation. The Spirit of the crucified Risen Christ now continues to lead the Church in handing over the gospel of Christ with all the risk involved. In this sense, Christian mission is first and foremost a response to God’s prior act. Ours is only a responsive act. As a response to the Spirit, handing over the gospel, mission, is not an option for the Church. The singular raison de etre of the Church is mission. It exists by its mission as fire exists by burning, to use a familiar expression by Emil Brunner. In other words, unmissionary Church is not the Church; a Church that takes risk in ‘handing-over’ the gospel through its life and witness is not the Body of Christ the sole purpose of which is to be broken and given away for the life of the world.

By ‘apostolic tradition’ we mean the very missionary dynamic of handing over the gospel story from one people to another. It does not primarily refer to that which has been allegedly delivered to the apostles, once and for all, and now is safeguarded by the episcopal custodians of the teaching authority of the Church. Rather, it is a process of letting loose the gospel into the histories of every nation, people and language ever since Pentecost. It is letting every culture shape the voice that hears and answers the voice of Christ. That there are four gospels in the New Testament in itself is a witness to this dynamic and contextual process of tradition-ing. Outside of this missional process of mediation of the story, the term tradition has no meaning for the Christian faith. Hence, tradition is contextual through and through. As the story is ‘handed-down’ to different peoples, and as different peoples witness to this apostolic dynamics in a plurality of ways, the gospel is manifested in its multifaceted richness. This fullness of the Christian story that is continually built up through the ever-moving tradition-ing process is its new catholicity. As author of the letter to the Ephesians describes the very task of mission, the handing over the gospel to which we are called, we are called to make every one see the wisdom of God in its rich variety or as a modern translation puts it to make every one see the ‘multicoloured’ wisdom of God.

By the power of the Holy Spirit every tradition-ing, or the handing over, of the gospel leads to transformation of peoples and cultures as well as the understanding of the gospel itself. Thus we may say that tradition and transformation are two moments of a single movement of the missionary handing over the gospel into every culture and context. Tradition-ing is transformation. The two are tandem actions within the missional life of the Church. They both constitute a seamless single continuum. Without the handing over of the gospel there is no transformation and without transformation there is no tradition. The relation between tradition and transformation may be compared to the relation between the bio-force and the biologically diverse nature, where the power and splendor of the former is manifested only through the mind boggling richness of bio-diversity. The missionary movement has been the powerful conduit, the channel for such a handing over. Or as Andrew Walls, a well known historian of mission suggests, the missionary tradition is ‘the detonator of a considerable explosion’ that has transformed the Christian story from a monolithic, monological and Eurocentric message into pluriform and polyvalent power enfleshed in diversity of cultures and lives of peoples around the world. Such a multicultural diffusion of the gospel story in cultures around the world, in all probability not intended by Western missionary movement, has brought us to a transformed situation where we cannot but affirm with Max Warren that it takes the whole world to know the whole gospel.

[[[ Contextual and catholic nature of tradition and transformation
The use of the term ‘traditioning’ is intended to counter the tendency toward an essentialist and oppositional thinking. Further such a use also may have the following advantages. First, it shows that it is an on-going process of ‘handing-down’. Secondly, because it is a process of handing-down, we cannot possess tradition as we possess some object. In fact tradition does not belong to us but we belong to it. We step into the stream of the traditioning process. It is a living and developing heritage out of which we live. It is not a fixed boundary, which includes some and excludes others but it is a dynamic movement, which moves on as the community of faith lives and celebrates it. Every encounter with a tradition is an event in the process of the community’s traditioning, handing over. Every interpretation is not as much of the tradition as it is a happening within the traditioning process. Therefore we do not control, though in our entering into it and making sense of it in our context we keep it ever new and moving. Thirdly, tradition, as that which constitutes a community, is relational. Since a tradition lives on in shared memory, praxis and hope of a given community, the encounter with the tradition is communal. It’s meaning and significance is inter-subjective. Hence an encounter with the tradition for a believer, particularly within an Eucharistic fellowship, is neither objective nor subjective; rather it is communitarian, inter-subjective. Therefore, such a dynamic process cannot be reduced into certain ‘irreducible content.’ Nor can any one contextual expression of the traditioning process function for the rest as a normative meta-narrative. However, as part of a process, every contextual expression of the gospel is interlinked to other expressions and the process itself may certainly have a distinct and clearly identifiable ‘enduring pattern’ to it over the centuries. Further, each traditioning process may also have markers, and shared signposts (symbolon), serving as framework, and guideline. Classical creeds of the Church are examples of such markers. Local churches receive, contextualise or inculturate the story and then, in turn, share their particular expressions of the faith within the communion of other churches. It is within this double movement of the traditioning process, i.e. the contextual and inte-contextual or ecumenical sharing, that the apostolic faith takes its enduring form, which we normally refer to as tradition. The fullness and wholeness of any tradition is understood only when these two poles are taken together, namely, its inculturation and intercultural sharing. Hence it is imperative every traditioning act is brought into dialogue with every other contextual act of traditioning. Inter-contextual dialogue among churches thus become an imperative for the sake of mutual correction and fuller understanding of the gospel. The term catholic, consisting of two Greek terms kata + holon, means according to all. A tradition is catholic when out of shared dialogical relationship churches together come to discern the fullness of the ‘multicoloured wisdom of God’. Thus the process of handing over involves both the contextualisation and the catholicity of the gospel. ]]]

What is important to remember is that the history of the process of vernacularisation of the gospel seem to suggest that the very life of Christian tradition survives in its transformation into plurality of forms of faith, life and witness. Andrew Walls argues that it is the movements toward cross-cultural expressions of the gospel that has been ‘the life blood of historic Christianity.’ What are some of the implications of such a transformation? First, the most obvious demographic change in the shape of world Christianity. I do not have to belabour the point that the centre of Christianity has shifted from the West to the non-West in terms of sheer number. Majority of them will be from charismatic, Pentecostal and independent churches such as the African Instituted churches. We are at a stage in the history of Christianity when we can truly speak of a global church. Churches in the third world articulate the gospel with great confidence, power, freedom and maturity arising out of their rootedness in the lives and cultures of their people. These "voices from the Third world" are louder and clearer. It will be so in this conference as it was in Lambeth 1998. Simultaneously there is lack of confidence in the gospel and its public relevance in the traditionally "Christian" countries in the West. The Church’s life, worship and witness are expressed in idioms totally unheard of in Christian history thus far. I should say that some of the profoundest expressions of the gospel and Christian theology today are often local and vernacular, distinctly different from the Western formulations of yester years! We even speak of the ‘post-Christian West’ and the ‘post-Western Christianity.’ Is it not the case that at the very time of great recession of Christianity in the West is also the time of massive renewal and vitalisation of the faith in the South?

What then are the challenges that this transformation that the ‘handing over’ or letting lose the gospel by the missionary movements of the last two centuries have brought about? Discerning them and re-visioning our mission thinking and practices within the Communion and without are the urgent and critical agenda before this conference. Listening to each other and discerning the movement of the Spirit in a polycentric world and in a polyphonic manner is demanded of each of us in that task if we are to be faithful to the transforming work of the Spirit all around us, through us and, of course, often in spite of us.

Let me very briefly identify three such implications of such a radical transformation of the very colour, contour and the face of Christianity that is manifested right in this room this evening. Do turn and look around you. Is it not marvellous what God, the Spirit has done through the missionary tradition-ing of the gospel even if for a period of about 150 years it did not appear to be so in the eyes of Western mission agencies?

First, let me begin with a very simple point. In deed the missionary movement today is polycentric. There is no single centre, no single language, no single person that can be said to be the singular norm of the movement. The fact that several new and voluntary movements from the South are represented in this conference is note worthy.

But it has been so from the day of Pentecost, is it not? From the very early days of the Church, the significance of the local congregation has been emphasised. The New Testament always speaks of the church in Antioch, Corinth, Ephesus etc. These were fully fledged churches rooted in their cultures. They were not understood as outposts of a mother Church somewhere else. In the Nineteen Sixties there was a great stress within the ecumenical movement on the importance of the local churches being rooted in the local cultures if they were to be true to their missionary calling. The experience of the basic ecclesial communities in the Roman Catholic Church, particularly in Latin America also brought to our awareness the power and relevance of a Christian community when it becomes authentically rooted in its local cultural. Reflecting upon such an explosion of locally grounded communities of faith Leonardo Boff could say in 1977, "This shift of the ecclesial axis contains, in seed, a new principle for 'birthing the church,' for 'starting the church again. 'It is a transposition that bids fair to form the principle of a genuine 'ecclesiogenesis'..." But in much of recent history of Christianity local churches in a given place have come to be seen the outposts of mother churches located elsewhere, as multiplications in structure, governance, theology and worship of denominations located elsewhere. Roland Allan lamented the fact in 1912 that the churches in the South were foreign, dependent and the same as that of the missionary who ‘handed down’ an structure and polity of the church rather than ‘handing over’ or letting lose the gospel of Christ that it might flower in ways appropriate to the local spiritual soil and clime.

More importantly, the transformation implies that today there is the potential of the non-Western churches to be both representative and norm-setting for the global Christianity. In spite of the superior financial, technical and organisation power of the Churches in the West, the faith, worship and witness of the Asian, African and Latin American churches have begun to represent world Christianity. How do we promote at this time a genuinely polycentric ecclesial communion is and missionary movement is a central question. Or putting it differently, how do we decentre the missionary tradition in ways that demonstrate a polycentric communion which in turn challenges an increasingly globalized and assimilative world through the forces of globalisation and points to an alternative inter-human ways of being and relating across cultures and nations?

Herein, of course is the disturbing question of power and authority. Plurality frightens us. We tend to look for the comfort of a single centre, single authority, single truth, unequivocally articulated and preserved and handed down in an unchanging manner everywhere and at all times. I often wonder what a missionary practice would look like if we resisted the temptation to ensure the victory of ‘oneness’ over multiplicity, identity over difference, or the pure over the hybrid. As the post modern thinker “Lyotard’ makes it clear, the rationality of consensus is only a few steps from the desire for one system, one truth, - in sum, one rationality – to dominate human civilisation. In its extreme, the will to one truth has yielded the totalitarian Reign of Terror.”

But at the same time, polycentric expressions of the gospel can also be a problem for cultures not only illumines the truth of the gospel in a myriad ways, but they also can imprison or domesticate its message. Therefore, we need each other within the Communion for a decentred but committed relationship within which mutual challenge and enrichment of our faith, worship and missionary witness is promoted. The narrative of the day of Pentecost in the Book of Acts points to such a possibility. Look for a moment at the story of the Pentecost. The story is set against the disciples’ question whether the kingdom of Israel will be restored and their identity would be affirmed. But Jesus response rather highlights that when the Spirit does come upon them, they would disperse, their collective existence will be de-centered and they would go to the ends of the earth. Their identities from now on are to be defined in terms of their plural locations and diverse peoples among whom they would go to witness. A centripetal quest is responded with a promise of centrifugal dispersal.

There is no central place, no single language, and no single authoritative seat of power, not even Jerusalem. Later on the disciples come to learn that baptism itself is a sign of an alternative identity of a new and inclusive humanity which replaces exclusivist ways of defining oneself. It is to decenter identities defined either purely in terms of polis, i.e., the Nation/city State to which one belonged or in terms of blood, i.e., one’s ethnic and blood relationships. By the repeated use of the term ‘each’ and ‘all’ in an inseparable relationship, Luke points to the possibility of a decentred and polycentric Communion and yet all its diverse members correcting and enriching each other in a mutuality. But let me place before you an image from the Book of Zechariah instead. In chapter 2, the prophet speaks of the urge for some to measure Jerusalem and to determine its strength and power in terms of its walls and ramparts. But an older angel warns the younger man who is committed to the measuring that no longer Jerusalem can be measured and that its strength is not in its single monolithic and measurable city and then adds the most challenging words, Jerusalem is occupied like villages without a wall for God is now its wall. A Communion not with a single monolithic structure, with ramparts and towers but rather plural villages in a decentred and dialogical relation to each other in all their vulnerability and with only God as their guardian.

Such a decentred approach to the others, in the words of Miraslov Volf, is to “create space in us to receive the other…The Spirit of God breaks through the self-enclosed worlds we inhabit.” The Spirit also opens up for us “the road toward becoming…a ‘catholic personality,’… A catholic personality is a personality enriched by otherness, a personality which is what it is only because multiple others have been reflected in it in a particular way.” The Spirit of Christ brings about a communion and a catholic identity in the place of either an assimilative globalisation or competitive politics of identity.

Mission as courageous border crossing

The second aspect of the Church’s missionary presence in a plural world has to do with borders that one group, community or race constructs over against others in order to negotiate plurality. More often than not, the construction of plural identities is also often controlled by binary thought forms. Monological, or egocentric identities, as we saw above, are constructed oppositionally. The identity of an individual or community is defined by differentiating it from what it is not. Each is seen as sharply atomised, this from that, you from me, God from the world, and so on. This differentiation quickly turns into sharp distinctions, and then distinction turns into opposition and confrontation. Further, in order to preserve one’s identity, borders are erected and maintained as non-porous. The logical consequence is that differences can no longer be tolerated.

The Acts of the Apostles portrays Peter similarly bounded by borders of race and religion; his attitude to a Gentile Cornelius is shaped by his sense of pollution of those who were different from him and his community. Yet, as the power of Pentecost operates, Peter is given the strength to cross borders and discover that God has no favourites among God’s people. How then can we learn to cross borders that we have hitherto kept as not permeable? No cultural or religious borders are impermeable. Certainly, in these days the co-ordinates of all our borders are continuously defined and redefined in terms of our interaction with each other. In other words, we can come to understand what initially strikes us as alien and strange if we have the willingness to cross boundaries set by us, and seek to understand the other.

Behind our cultural, linguistic and even national borders there is a significant connectedness of our diverse identities and histories in these postmodern times. Many identities are hybrid, hyphenated and in constant flux. They are continuously defined and redefined in terms of our interaction with other identities. The factor behind many a nationalist conflict and ethnic cleansing in our times is the inability of a people to move beyond their own background or cultural boundaries. We need to remind ourselves that it was the ideology of the incommensurability of races and cultural horizons that motivated the demonic destruction initiated by the Third Reich. Even today, many an intra-state and inter state conflicts betray similar mindsets. Hence, rupturing the spatial and temporal boundaries of our histories and crossing borders are an urgent imperative in our missionary commitment. Changing the metaphor one might say that the call for mission today is to build highways and bridges between peoples and nations. The life and witness of the Anglican Communion is to be signs and foretaste in that process.

In Isaiah 19:23-24 the Prophet envisions such a border crossing. The vision speaks of an impossible possibility. Three former enemies now cross borders and walk back and forth to each other over a highway built by God. For Israel, this was costly. It had to give up its privileged position and learn to be on a par with Egypt and Assyria. It had to give up its special name as "my (God’s) people" with others who have been hitherto called the Gentiles. But the Prophet speaks of the coming together of these different peoples as though it is God’s dream and purpose for humanity. The mission of the church today, I submit, is to build such a highway over which people of diverse cultures, religions and races can cross borders for both integration as well as the enrichment of their particular identities. It will, indeed, demand from the church a critical examination and renouncing of its theologies that exclude, and of its missionary practices that maintain impermeable boundaries with others.

Let me now quickly turn to a third aspect of mission in the context of the transformations brought out by the centuries of the ‘handing over’ the gospel.

If we look back at the story of the early church after the Pentecost experience, it appears that the Spirit did not leave the believers with border-crossings alone. Certainly, such crossings brought out newer dimensions of integration or wholeness, and helped redraw the co-ordinates of ecclesial identities. However, the Spirit demanded more. The Spirit led the disciples to the formation of a community where differences could be articulated and contestation was possible. Particularly, those whose voices were not heard were empowered to speak. The concerns of the marginalised, e.g. the Greek widows, became a factor in the structural alteration of the community and its ministries. The stories of those who had been silenced until then could now be heard. The experience of the ‘gentiles’ became a decisive factor in determining the future of theology and mission.

The first council in Jerusalem is a case in point. This story of Pentecost is set in a conflictual context. The powerful ‘Judaizers’ have their say. Yet, at the centre of the story is the place given to the stories of those who are outside the Jewish community, i.e. the gentiles. Truth is shared not in propositional terms; it is rather shared as stories. James Cone points to the power of story telling in empowerment and community building. He says:

“Indeed, when I understand truth as story, I am more likely to be open to other people’s truth stories. As I listen to other stories, I am invited to move out of the subjectivity of my own story into another realm of thinking and acting. The same is true for others when I tell my story…Indeed it is only when we refuse to listen to another story that our own story becomes ideological, that is a closed system,
incapable of hearing the truth.

Cone’s warning that community itself is at stake and domination of one group by another is the result when we are closed in within our own stories and turn them into the only valid truth needs to be heeded. He says, “When people can no longer listen to other people’s stories, they become enclosed within their own social context, treating their distorted visions of reality as the whole truth. And then they feel that they must destroy other stories, which bear witness that life can be lived in another way.” Thus the Pentecost paradigm places before us an authentic way of dealing with difference and negotiating plurality among the several movements and organisations in mission that the Communion includes within its fellowship.

It is by ensuring the intentional creation of a community, a space, in which the ‘other’ who has been silenced for a long time can now be heard on his/her own terms. It is a space where monologue is given room to dialogue and trialogue for the co-construction of the self and others within a shared communion. It is a space that safeguards differences and yet builds up common sharing. This implies that we have many different voices in and through which we speak. Our many voices of heteroglossia offer us a richness of thinking, knowing and experiencing ourselves and everything that is around us. It is through the multi-voicedness that we are constituted as social selves. The absence of multi-voicedness leads a community to dominant modes of discourse; its definitions of truth will remain static and exclusive.

I use the term ‘multi-voiced’ and not the more familiar terms such as ‘multi-cultural’ or ‘multi-vocal.’ This is primarily to indicate that the space and the community we are envisioning here do not simply include the presence of more or less representatives of diverse groups. Rather, the space and community active foster a setting where a plurality of voices are heard, and in which their diversities and contestation are expressed, and their participation matters in making decisions. Voicing implies exercising power. Therefore, in a multi-voiced community, power sharing is critical. Such a community is possible only when we are willing to give up our dominant roles and inherited structures of power and privilege. Much will be demanded of those who commit themselves for such dialogical and multivoiced spaces in the midst of a predominantly monological world.

Mission toward a multivoiced community, witnessing to truth as stories, will necessarily involve a radical vulnerability demonstrated by Jesus. It calls for a genuine ‘incarnate presence’ before the other, and within the cultures and religious heritage of the people around us. Witness from within is the only proper mode of evangelism worthy of a God who does not control history from without, but rather enters into our history, suffers with it and transforms it by participating in it, fully and really. As the well known Asian theologian, C.S. Song puts it, “Christian mission in essence should be a love affair of the church with other human beings with whom God has already fallen in love…It is Christian believers building with them a community in the power of God’s love. If this is what Christian mission is, then Christian mission is God’s mission.” The practice of mission often tends to forget this central affirmation. Mission, in essence, is an expression of God's pain, and God's love, demonstrated in Jesus Christ to all those human beings with whom God is already in love. Mission in the mode of vulnerable love is necessarily dialogical. It is a genuine listening and responding to stories of God’s love as told by others, however strange these stories may sound.

One thing is certain: only when the pain-love of the crucified Christ is in us, shall we be authentic witnesses to the power of the risen Christ, which is the power of pain-love that gives life to all and voice to the voiceless. It is through the solidarity of love to the end that reconciliation of God in Jesus Christ, and the drawing of all of creation into God’s embrace, is accomplished in all its plurality, thus witnessing to the ‘multi-coloured wisdom and glory of the Triune God.

But it is obvious the task ahead is not easy and responding to the demands of the transformations taking place within the missionary movements and our Communion as a whole through the letting lose of the gospel is risky and at times frightening. Many of us would rather escape into the comfort zones of a centralised and frozen tradition. It may be good to hear the words spoken at the fifth world conference on Faith and Order in 1993 in Santiago de Compostela calling for a metanoia and kenosis when that movement was faced with a similar challenge. In powerful words it pointed to the ‘steps along the way’. “As we strip ourselves of false securities, finding in God our true and only identity, daring to be open and vulnerable to each other, we will begin to live as pilgrims on a journey, discovering the God of surprises who leads us into roads which we have not travelled, and we will find in each other true companions on the way.”

The question is whether those of us who are concerned about tradition-ing and transformation in mission within the Anglican Communion are ready for the needed metanoia and kenosis and be vulnerable in the process. The Santiago de Compostela statement further continued.

As we travel the way of pilgrimage, we will need to be able to understand each other’s theological language and cultural ethos. We would be assisted in our journeying by inter-contextual dialogues…and new ways of doing theology, which provide more adequate tools to express community on the way to the goal of visible unity.


When churches in general and the mission organizations that we represent here in particular come into the force-field of Pentecost in the way we have described above they shall indeed be the hopeful signs of God’s new age, evoking anticipation of that day when out of every tribe and nation people will walk the walk of the reign of God. As we dare to be open and vulnerable to each other, stripping ourselves of false securities, we shall discover the God of surprises leading us on to radical and unforeseen vistas in mission in the decades ahead - as radical as the vision of Jesus of Nazareth himself:

“Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last” (Luke 13:29-30).
Not only are people of diverse cultures and contexts drawn into one communion at God’s table but status and power relationships are reversed, with a clear bias for those who have been marginalised and had been made the objects of some one else’s mission enterprise. Are not the mission organisations of the Anglican Communion called to be the signs and foretaste of this God’s intent? That is our call? That is our agenda in this conference for the next few days. May God grant us the grace to traditio/ handover the gospel in mission for the transformation of the world and the glory of the Triune God.

Mission Organisations Conference
Cyprus February 2003