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Together towards Life: Mission and Evangelism in Changing Landscapes: New Affirmation on Mission and Evangelism – WCC Commission on World Mission and Evangelism

July 14, 2016

WCCHaving been a proponent for a moratorium on mission,  I am glad to see that people are seeing things differently now.

The product of seven years’ preparation, a new statement on mission and evangelism was presented to the World Council of Churches (WCC) during its Tenth Assembly, held in Busan, Republic of Korea, October 30–November 8, 2013.

It says that “evangelism is not proseltism,” and it is implied with regard to “the enticement of Christians who already belong to a church to change their denominational allegiance”. It is clear that the authors of the TT” disassociate themselves from proselytism understood as “fishing in our Christian  neighbor’s  pond,” given that the methods used “contradict the spirit of Christian love, violate the   freedom of the human person and diminish trust in the Christian witness of the church”.

What about non-Christians in the light of some earlier WCC documents, such as Ecumenical Considerations for Dialogue and Relations with .people of Other Religions?

It talks of the marginalised and means the indigenous peoples and their cultures, traditions and wisdom which are highly appreciated . Hoever, indigenous wisdom does not necessarilyy have to be positive and revealing.

It speaks of healing and reconciliation “as the restoration of right relations with God”. These formulations give an impression of a certain backward perspective as if they  tried to search for a lost golden age, when everything used to  be perfect and sound. even though the Bible has much to say on the restoration of correct relations with God, people and creation, another of its strong emphases is on a future-oriented perspective, brand new things, new creation.

I like it that it says:’ Genuine unity always entails inclusivity and respect for others’. Those seeking the unity of the Anglican Communion want to marginalise and exclude gay people.

WCC 2Quotations:

If there is a shift of the mission concept from “mission to the margins” to “mission from the margins,” what We are living in a world in which faith in mammon threatens the credibility of the gospel. Market ideology is spreading the propaganda that the global market will save the world through unlimited growth. This myth is a threat not only to economic life but also to the spiritual life of people, and not only to humanity but also to the whole creation. How can we proclaim the good news and values of God’s kingdom in the global market or win over the spirit of the market? What kind of missional action can the church take in the midst of economic and ecological injustice and crisis on a global scale?

Mission is the overflow of the infinite love of the Triune God. We regret that mission activity linked with colonization has often denigrated cultures and failed to recognize the wisdom of local The highly competitive environment of the free market economy has unfortunately influenced some churches and para-church movements to seek to be “winners” over others. This can even lead to the adoption of aggressive tactics to persuade Christians who already belong to a church to change their denominational allegiance. Seeking numerical growth at all costs is incompatible with the respect for others required of Christian disciples. Jesus became our Christ not through power or money but through his self-emptying (kenosis) and death on the cross. This humble understanding of mission does not merely shape our methods but is the very nature and essence of our faith in Christ. The church is a servant in God’s mission and not the master. The missionary church glorifies God in self-emptying love.

Our call to do justice may sometimes involve breaking false unities that silence and oppress. Genuine unity always entails inclusivity and respect for others.

The enforcement of uniformity discredits the uniqueness of each individual created in the image and likeness of God. Whereas Babel attempted to enforce uniformity, the preaching of the disciples on the day of Pentecost resulted in a unity in which personal particularities and community identities were not lost but respected—they heard the good news in their own languages.

We understand that our task is not to bring God along but to witness to the God who is already there (Acts 17:23-28).

TOGETHER TOWARDS LIFE: INTRODUCING THE THEME

1. We believe in the Triune God who is the creator, redeemer and sustainer of all life. . . . How and where do we discern God’s life-giving work that enables us to participate in God’s mission today?

 

2. Mission begins in the heart of the Triune God and the love which binds together the Holy Trinity overflows to all humanity and creation. . . . From a renewed appreciation of the mission of the Spirit, how do we re-envision God’s mission in a changing and diverse world today?

 

3. Life in the Holy Spirit is the essence of mission, the core of why we do what we do, and how we live our lives. . . . How can we reclaim mission as transformative spirituality which is life-affirming?

 

4. God did not send the Son for the salvation of humanity alone or give us a partial salvation. . . . As threats to the future of our planet are evident, what are their implications for our participation in God’s mission?

 

5. The history of Christian mission has been characterized by conceptions of geographical expansion from a Christian centre to the “un-reached territories”, to the ends of the earth. . . . What are the insights for mission and evangelism—theologies, agendas and practices—of [the] “shift of the centre of gravity of Christianity”?

 

6. Mission has been understood as a movement taking place from the centre to the periphery, and from the privileged to the marginalized of society. . . . If there is a shift of the mission concept from “mission to the margins” to “mission from the margins”, what then is the distinctive contribution of the people from the margins? And why are their experiences and visions crucial for re-imagining mission and evangelism today?
7. We are living in a world in which faith in mammon threatens the credibility of the gospel. . . . What kind of missional action can the church take in the midst of economic and ecological injustice and crisis on a global scale?
8. All Christians, churches and congregations are called to be vibrant messengers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the good news of salvation. . . . How can we proclaim God’s love and justice to a generation living in an individualized, secularized and materialized world?
9. The church lives in multi-religious and multi-cultural contexts and new communication technology is also bringing the people of the world into a greater awareness of one another’s identities and pursuits. . . . What are the ecumenical convictions regarding common witnessing and practising life-giving mission in a world of many religions and cultures?
10. The church is a gift of God to the world for its transformation towards the kingdom of God. . . . How can the church renew herself to be missional and move forward together towards life in its fullness?
11. This statement highlights some key developments in understanding the mission of the Holy Spirit within the mission of the Triune God (missio Dei) which have emerged through the work of CWME. It does so under four main headings:
•  Spirit of Mission: Breath of Life

•  Spirit of Liberation: Mission from the Margins

•  Spirit of Community: Church on the Move

•  Spirit of Pentecost: Good News for All

Reflection on such perspectives enables us to embrace dynamism, justice, diversity and transformation as key concepts of mission in changing landscapes today. In response to the questions posed above, we conclude with ten affirmations for mission and evangelism today.

FEAST OF LIFE: CONCLUDING AFFIRMATIONS

101. We are the servants of the Triune God, who has given us the mission of proclaiming the good news to all humanity and creation, especially the oppressed and the suffering people who are longing for fullness of life. Mission—as a common witness to Christ—is an invitation to the “feast in the kingdom of God” (Luke 14:15). The mission of the church is to prepare the banquet and to invite all people to the feast of life. The feast is a celebration of creation and fruitfulness overflowing from the love of God, the source of life in abundance. It is a sign of the liberation and reconciliation of the whole creation which is the goal of mission. With a renewed appreciation of the mission of God’s Spirit, we offer the following affirmations in response to the question posed at the beginning of this document.
102. We affirm that the purpose of God’s mission is fullness of life (John 10:10) and this is the criterion for discernment in mission. Therefore, we are called to discern the Spirit of God wherever there is life in its fullness, particularly in terms of the liberation of the oppressed peoples, the healing and reconciliation of broken communities and the restoration of the whole creation. We are challenged to appreciate the life-affirming spirits present in different cultures and to be in solidarity with all those who are involved in the mission of affirming and preserving life. We also discern and confront evil spirits wherever forces of death and negation of life are experienced.
103. We affirm that mission begins with God’s act of creation and continues in re-creation, by the enlivening power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, poured out in tongues of fire at Pentecost, fills our hearts and makes us into Christ’s church. The Spirit which was in Christ Jesus inspires us to a self-emptying and cross-bearing life-style and accompanies God’s people as we seek to bear witness to the love of God in word and deed. The Spirit of truth leads into all truth and empowers us to defy the demonic powers and speak the truth in love. As a redeemed community we share with others the waters of life and look for the Spirit of unity to heal, reconcile and renew the whole creation.
104. We affirm that spirituality is the source of energy for mission and that mission in the Spirit is transformative. Thus we seek a re-orienting of our perspective between mission, spirituality and creation. Mission spirituality that flows from liturgy and worship reconnects us with one another and with the wider creation. We understand that our participation in mission, our existence in creation and our practice of the life of the Spirit are woven together for they are mutually transformative. Mission that begins with creation invites us to celebrate life in all its dimensions as God’s gift.
105. We affirm that the mission of God’s Spirit is to renew the whole creation. “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” (Psalm 24:1, NIV). The God of life protects, loves and cares for nature. Humanity is not the master of the earth but is responsible to care for the integrity of creation. Excessive greed and unlimited consumption which lead to continuous destruction of nature must end. God’s love does not proclaim a human salvation separate from the renewal of the whole creation. We are called to participate in God’s mission beyond our human-centred goals. God’s mission is to all life and we have to both acknowledge it and serve it in new ways of mission. We pray for repentance and forgiveness, but we also call for action now. Mission has creation at its heart.
106. We affirm that today mission movements are emerging from the global South and East which are multi-directional and many faceted. The shifting centre of gravity of Christianity to the global South and East challenges us to explore missiological expressions that are rooted in these contexts, cultures and spiritualities. We need to develop further mutuality and partnership and affirm interdependence within mission and the ecumenical movement. Our mission practice should show solidarity with suffering peoples and harmony with nature. Evangelism is done in self-emptying humility, with respect towards others and in dialogue with people of different cultures and faiths. It should, in this landscape, also involve confronting structures and cultures of oppression and dehumanization that are in contradiction to the values of God’s reign.
107. We affirm that marginalized people are agents of mission and exercise a prophetic role which emphasizes that fullness of life is for all. The marginalized in society are the main partners in God’s mission. Marginalized, oppressed and suffering people have a special gift to distinguish what news is good for them and what news is bad for their endangered life. In order to commit ourselves to God’s life-giving mission, we have to listen to the voices from the margins to hear what is life-affirming and what is life-destroying. We must turn our direction of mission to the actions that the marginalized are taking. Justice, solidarity and inclusivity are key expressions of mission from the margins.
108. We affirm that the economy of God is based on values of love and justice for all and that transformative mission resists idolatry in the free-market economy. Economic globalization has effectively supplanted the God of life with mammon, the god of free-market capitalism that claims the power to save the world through the accumulation of undue wealth and prosperity. Mission in this context needs to be counter-cultural, offering alternatives to such idolatrous visions because mission belongs to the God of life, justice and peace and not to this false god who brings misery and suffering to people and nature. Mission, then, is to denounce the economy of greed and to participate in and practise the divine economy of love, sharing and justice.
109. We affirm that the gospel of Jesus Christ is good news in all ages and places and should be proclaimed in the Spirit of love and humility. We affirm the centrality of the incarnation, the cross and the resurrection in our message and also in the way we do evangelism. Therefore, evangelism is pointing always to Jesus and the kingdom of God rather than to institutions, and it belongs to the very being of the church. The prophetic voice of the church should not be silent in times that demand this voice be heard. The church is called to renew its methods of evangelism to communicate the good news with persuasion, inspiration and conviction.
110. We affirm that dialogue and cooperation for life are integral to mission and evangelism. Authentic evangelism is done with respect to freedom of religion and belief, for all human beings, as images of God. Proselytism by violent means, economic incentive or abuse of power is contrary to the message of the gospel. In doing evangelism it is important to build relations of respect and trust between people of different faiths. We value each and every human culture and recognize that the gospel is not possessed by any group but is for every people. We understand that our task is not to bring God along but to witness to the God who is already there (Acts 17:23–28). Joining in with the Spirit we are enabled to cross cultural and religious barriers to work together towards Life.
111. We affirm that God moves and empowers the church in mission. The church as the people of God, the body of Christ, and the temple of the Holy Spirit is dynamic and changing as it continues the mission of God. This leads to a variety of forms of common witness, reflecting the diversity of world Christianity. Thus the churches need to be on the move, journeying together in mission, continuing in the mission of the apostles. Practically, this means that church and mission should be united, and different ecclesial and missional bodies need to work together for the sake of Life.
112. The Triune God invites the whole creation to the Feast of Life, through Jesus Christ who came “that they may have life, and may have it in all its fullness” (John 10:10, REB), through the Holy Spirit who affirms the vision of the reign of God, “Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth!” (Isaiah 65:17, KJV). We commit ourselves together in humility and hope to the mission of God, who recreates all and reconciles all. And we pray, “God of Life, lead us into justice and peace!”

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