CENTENARY OF THE 1910 WORLD MISSIONARY CONFERENCE:
[Christian leaders, academicians and delegates form 60 denominations from all over the world gathered in Edinburgh in June and reaffirmed their solemn commitment to witnessing during the centenary celebrations of world missionary conference of 1910. The following is a detailed summary of their findings in two parts.]
[CONTINUED FROM LAST ISSUE]
5. Forms of missionary engagement:
This group had the task of exploring various manifestations and strategies of missionary engagement in our world today. The Church cannot be a church without giving witness to God’s desire for healing a fractured world and a broken humanity. The Church exists for the world; it is called to the service of humankind; the Church is part of the world where God’s concern is understood and celebrated. Therefore giving witness is the mission of the Church, the question is how this is to be done. In order to emphasis the fact that the local church is part of the universal church the term ‘glocal’ is introduced. It is further asserted that the universal church finds the true existence in each local church and that the universal church only exists where there are local churches. Local churches had a well defined parish structure, which is now being changed to other structures and formularies such as house church, emerging churches and para-churches. These new congregations of believers signal more fluid dynamics of movements, providing multiple strategic options depending upon the nature of the target groups. In spite of the emergence of these new forms of churches, church attendance in general is declining in the West. The Church must again become a community in partnership with clergy and laity for helping each other to discover their God-given gifts and ministries in varied areas of human existence where transformation and renewal are needed.
Case studies were presented to introduce the idea of vulnerability in mission or mission without power. This was a very engaging section of this study: ‘Mission is an exercise in vulnerability as we share God’s reconciling purpose which was achieved by God becoming weak and helpless, particularly in the sacrifice of Jesus of Nazareth. Mission is the place of identification with the marginalised.’ Philip Jenkins observation that ‘Christianity is flourishing wonderfully among the poor and the persecuted while it atrophies among the rich and secure’ is indeed right on the mark to appreciate the north South divide in mission and in the intensity of the mission of the powerless.
Children’s ministry was also discussed in this section and its importance was brought about through God’s dealing with the boy, Samuel; Jesus’ early childhood interactions with teachers in the temple court in Jerusalem and finally through Jesus’, rebuking chief priests and teachers of the law for preventing children’s participation in worship. Children are considered as agents of transformation.
‘Going-it-alone’ mission model is slowly moving into partnership in mission. Caring partnership is the key to its effectiveness. Economic and political realities often bring mission agencies together. Reverse- mission is a new model developing due to migration of Christians from the developing South to the developed North. Information super highways and media are good medium for mission; but it should not be used to replace real personal interaction with people and communities. The demography of the population in India is skewed towards very young population. Today, approximately 45% of the world population live in urban areas and it is projected to increase to 66% by 2050. Therefore, strategic priorities of mission will be directed towards youth-centred and urban mission. As we are at the beginning of a new century, we are bound to see many new models of mission emerging in due course.
6. Theological education and formation:
Christianity has a good record in educating its followers with fundamental principles for sharing and defending their faith. In the main, Western pattern of theological educations and bible colleges were exported through out the world. It is only during the last 40 years or so Western ideas and dominance have been challenged by contextualised patterns of theological education. There is general consensus that Christians should be taught the basics of our faith and apologetics to explain why we believe what we believe. Christian education in some churches is done through family prayer times and Sunday schools, but there is a further need for continuous Christian education for other age groups. Liturgical churches need special sessions for teaching historical development of liturgy and liturgical terms. Christian education in this context is not based on Seminary or University education. Americans have a problem in teaching religion in the schools; they even oppose religious building for graduation ceremonies etc.
On the other hand the term ‘theological education’ is used exclusively for ministerial training. Some churches sadly do not have a good record for pastoral care and such training is much needed. As churches are becoming more and more lay-centred, there is a growing demand for lay formation and leadership programmes. Theology should not be regarded as the exclusive property of the ordained ministry. Residential, non-residential and distance learning facilities are now available for theological education. Theological education should be part of the holistic mission of the Church. Theological education for different segments of the church was also discussed; these included: women, youths, migrants, ethnic communities, and equipping people for interfaith dialogue by giving them a good knowledge about other faiths. It is also thought that theological education should be done in languages which are comfortable to the communities the churches serve. It may even be necessary to stand outside the box, the box of conventional theological education, to see what is needed to equip lay people for God’s mission.
7. Christian Communities in contemporary contexts:
This study group addressed the following questions:
The discussion based on above questions clearly indicated that working to improve people’s, not just Christians, contexts is the priority in the contemporary world, rather than religious conversion. Christians themselves are the agents of some of the problems facing the society and hence it is difficult for them to get involved sincerely to solve them and to establish kingdom values. It was emphasised that we need a theology of empowerment of the poor and marginalised to avoid the problem of paternalism and power play. The concept of holistic mission needs to be further developed and applied in collaboration with people in need for the eradication of poverty and combating illnesses and epidemics. Churches must realise and repent that our flagship endeavours had been inadequate or misplaced in the past and we must work together prayerfully and humbly to discover what God wants us to do to heal this fractured world.
8. Mission and Unity - Ecclesiology and Mission:
The commission for World Mission and Evangelism of the WCC have contributed much to the development of this study. It is pointed out that Edinburgh 1910 was a conference of the missionary societies of the West and not of churches. There are many reasons for the ever changing landscape world Christianity since 1910. In the face of active growth of secularisation projects the Christian influence is slowly declining in the West. However, churches in the global South are experiencing an explosive momentum in Asia and Africa. Now mission is no more from the West/North to South, it is now from ‘every where to every where.’ Charismatic and Pentecostals show a much greater missionary fervour than traditionally established main line churches. This has created a new sense of ecclesiology of coming together and being together. These new forms of Christianity challenge traditional concepts of unity of the church. Ecumenical dialogue and cooperation with these new ‘emerging churches’ and faith movements are difficult because of their radically new liturgical expressions. Theologically the inner communion of the Holy Trinity is the ultimate source of unity of the church and aim of God’s mission; this mission is simply to invite every human being to experience fellowship with God and one another according to mystical inner unity of the Trinity (John 17:21) in the eschatological hope of healing the whole created world. This new creation by uniting everything is the ultimate aim of God’s mission. This unity of purpose in witnessing can be understood when we realise that mission is what church is created to be (kainonia), created to do (daikona), and created to say (kerygma). The Church has received from God the specific task of making the memory of Jesus alive in every culture through a Eucharistic lifestyle of taking, thanking, breaking, and giving. Trying to find clear blue water between ecclesiology and mission is meaningless. Mission is the authentic nature of the Church.
This group further examined evangelism and its ecumenical dimensions and possibilities; they also made a detailed discussion on the touchy question of proselytism that has alienated and sill alienates so many people and nations. Proselytism is not only happening across religious boundaries, it is happening on a significant level between Christian denominations as indicated before. This is thought to be against the spirit of Christian love and the freedom of the human person. It is thought these reflections on issues of mission and unity continue to lead to a deeper understanding of the mission of God. They concluded that mission of the church must be a mission of healing and reconciliation to prepare the way for a greater unity between churches and their mission.
9. Mission spirituality and authentic discipleship:
Mission spirituality is concerned with what is necessary for the Christian to engage in mission. It is essentially the work of the Holy Spirit for motivation and sustaining God’s mission in various areas of human activity. The question, ‘What motivates and sustain mission?’ was put to various groups for discussions and their answers were presented. Motivation for mission included love of God, fear of God, compassion, guilt, eschatological urgency, desire for power and monetary rewards. Opinions were sought from the following groups: African instituted Churches; Back to Jerusalem Movement; CMS Africa; Immigrant church groups, Russian Orthodox Church; Korean Pentecostal Church; Reformed churches, Roman Catholic Church in Asia and Indian indigenous Christianity, Korean Spirituality, Philippine and Mexican Christian spirituality and culture and ecumenical spirituality.
Edinburgh 2010 is a ‘call to celebrate what God has done and is doing in global mission, to admit the mistakes that have been made and to look to the future.’ Authentic discipleship is crucial to sustain effective mission. Christian spirituality is a gift and a motivational force for mission. This group made the following commendation as a conclusion: “A discipleship that embraces diverse Christian spiritual practice, not merely tolerating but actively seeking to understand and incorporate them. We call for a renewed discipleship that expects the unexpected in a spirit of humility and reconciliation. We have seen over and over, since the early church that God’s Holy Spirit is actively involved in reconciliation and bringing nations, tribes and cultures together. At the same time, this spirituality should be Christ- centred and biblically grounded.”
10. Common Call:
The conference ended on 6th June with a “Common Call” to Christians and a special historic celebration involving a gathering of over 1200 people at the Assembly Halls of the Church of Scotland, the venue of the 1910 gathering. Keynote speaker was the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu. His sermon followed a reading of Ezekiel’s prophesy that brought new life to a valley of dry bones. The Archbishop said that we must help our churches by acting prophetically, speaking out for freedom against injustice. He added: “As we do this, we must remember speaking prophetically is not the same as condeming other people’s failures, but rather helping us all towards the acceptance of common goals which uplift the heart. To help lift up the heart of a nation is an exciting challenge, and it is one which we can do together, because it is what God has called us to as part of our mission and dicipleship.”Alluding to Peter’s denial of Chrsit before his crucifixion, Dr. Sentamu added, “ Jesus today is on trial in the court of the world by our lips and lives. Jesus and his gospel are being judged.”
The delegates and other participants from across the Christian denominations and traditions gave the following introductory statement for the ‘Common Call’ declaration: “As we gather for the centenary of the World Missionary Conference of Edinburgh 1910, we believe the church, as a sign and symbol of the reign of God, is called to witness to Christ today by sharing in God’s mission of love through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Nine specific statements are included in the Common Call.” The following is the full text:
I hope this overview may be of some help to understand different attitudes and challenges confronting Christian mission today. It may also help us to realise that we are not alone in this task and there is a mission community out there waiting for us to join in partnership with them to engage in God’s mission under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit. As you have noticed many challenging and creative discussions emerging from Edinburgh 2010 that I tried to summarise in this article address a variety of issues that we confront in our Christian mission today. The primary mission field is the daily meeting points of ordinary Christians in their extraordinary encounters under the grace of God. Many questions were aired without offering a clear, coherent and systematic blueprint or bench mark or a standardised operating procedure for mission. However, the only standard required for mission is the love of Christ and our love for our neighbour through the love, grace and mercy of God.
|Email this Link to a Friend||Send Your Feedback|
LIGHT OF LIFE
PUBLISHED ON FIRST DAY OF EVERY MONTH