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God of life, lead us to justice and peace

  1. Top of page
  2. God of life, lead us to justice and peace
  3. Mission from the margins
  4. Theology of life
  5. Transformative spirituality
  6. Christian witness in a multi-religious world
  7. Church as agent of mission
  8. Leaders who engender mutual respect and reciprocity
  9. Breathe on us, breath of God
  10. Footnotes
  11. Biographies

The 10th World Council of Churches (WCC) Assembly held in Busan, Republic of Korea, from 30 October to 8 November 2013 will be remembered for many things. Among them will be the experience of sharing the pain of Koreans over the unresolved division of their country, hearing first-hand from Christians whose communities are exposed to the violence and turmoil of the Middle East today, meeting ecumenical challenges by building relationships with Christians from constituencies outside the membership of the WCC, recognizing the imperative to build healthy relationships with people of other faiths, and praying with passion and in unity: “God of life, lead us to justice and peace.” The affirmation of “God of life” in the assembly came through words and sounds, in the print and electronic media. This common focus on journeying “together towards life” affected all areas of the experience in Busan. Yet possibly what will be remembered most about Busan is that it was an assembly at which the missional mandate of the church took centre stage.

For the first time in 21 years, a plenary session of the assembly was devoted to mission. Its focus was the new WCC affirmation: Together Towards Life: Mission and Evangelism in Changing Landscapes (TTL).[1] As the official assembly newspaper reported: “Participants at yesterday's mission plenary were stirred to commit afresh to a renewed statement on mission in light of global political, economic and social changes.”[2] Additionally, an “Ecumenical Conversation,” extending over four days, examined TTL in greater depth and made recommendations regarding further work to be done that would enhance its appeal to the churches. Another ecumenical conversation concentrated specifically on evangelism. While mission and evangelism belong together, the Busan assembly, for the sake of special focus and emphasis, gave participants space to embrace the common task through two separate routes.

Furthermore, many other moments in the assembly resonated with TTL, either directly or indirectly. It is not difficult to hear the echo of TTL in the official message of the assembly: “By the flame of the Spirit in our hearts, we pray to Christ to brighten the world: for his light to turn our whole beings to caring for the whole of creation and to affirm that all people are created in God's image. Listening to voices that often come from the margins, let us all share lessons of hope and perseverance.”[3] In this article we offer reflections on the assembly's reception of the new affirmation and turn our attention to the next steps in its dissemination and implementation.

Mission from the margins

  1. Top of page
  2. God of life, lead us to justice and peace
  3. Mission from the margins
  4. Theology of life
  5. Transformative spirituality
  6. Christian witness in a multi-religious world
  7. Church as agent of mission
  8. Leaders who engender mutual respect and reciprocity
  9. Breathe on us, breath of God
  10. Footnotes
  11. Biographies

At the Busan assembly the ground was prepared for an emphasis on mission from the margins when Bishop Duleep de Chickera of Sri Lanka expounded a “victim theology” in the Theme Plenary. In a powerful address he pointed out that Jesus always sought out people on the margins and that therefore the churches must always be sensitive to, and take sides with, the plight of the marginalized victims in their societies who are seeking fullness of life. In this way, he argued, we locate ourselves alongside the NO-people to whom Jesus says, “YES.” It is our sustained pastoral presence among the victims that gives us authority to call the aggressors to account. In this context, Bishop de Chickera described the assembly theme “God of life, lead us to justice and peace” as a “timely prophetic petition.”[4]

When Metropolitan Dr Geevarghese Mor Coorilos, Moderator of the Commission for World Mission and Evangelism (CWME), addressed the assembly in the Mission Plenary he described “mission from the margins” as the defining concept of TTL, the “heartbeat” of the document.[5] He invoked the common call of Edinburgh 2010: “We are called to find practical ways to live as members of One Body in full awareness that God resists the proud, Christ welcomes and empowers the poor and afflicted, and the power of the Holy Spirit is manifested in our vulnerability.”[6]

In this context, the bishop highlighted the epistemological faculty of the marginalized, quoting from TTL: “People on the margins have agency, and can often see what, from the centre, is out of view. People on the margins, living in vulnerable positions, often know what exclusionary forces are threatening their survival and can best discern the urgency of their struggles.”[7] Indeed, he went further to argue that it is only the marginalized who have the moral stamina for social transformation. By contrast, mission from the centre, despite the sacrificial, Christ-like, and fruitful life of many individual missionaries, has often ended up being complicit with life-denying forces. It is to the dynamic agency of the marginalized that we must look as we pray the prayer: God of life, lead us to justice and peace.

Echoes of this emphasis rang throughout the assembly. The Bible study on Acts 2:1–13, for example, makes the point that it “was the despised and marginalized Galileans who experienced the power of the Holy Spirit and served as its pioneering instruments … The coming of the Holy Spirit effected the restoration of these marginalized people and their transformation into creative agents.”[8]

If margins have been used earlier as a geographical term, it is evident that this is no longer the case. Marginalized situations exist everywhere in the world, just as centres exist everywhere. This challenges churches to look within their own societietal contexts to define what the power structures are and how they impact the lives of ordinary people. It also challenges the global church to look at its internal relationships and consider what is governing them. The interplay within the global church might change from the perspective of margins and centres. Those in the centres have to learn how to define their own needs and how to receive. This can be a learning journey. At the same time, those in the margins have to value their assets.

The concept of “mission from the margins” has indeed struck a chord with readers of TTL and is commonly the phrase that defines the document. This vindicates the decision of the CWME to retain this concept notwithstanding certain difficulties in its interpretation and application. An issue that recurrently troubled the preparation of TTL is that centre and margins are matters of perspective. Persons who are victims of the misuse of social, economic, political, military, and religious power do experience the dehumanizing force of marginalization. Yet by identifying somewhere or someone as being on the margins, it could be argued that the perspective is of one whose worldview is informed by the ideology of those who live at the centre. Therefore, when speaking of the marginalized, a recurrent question is the identity of the speaker and whether it is possible to speak objectively about the subject without being complicit.

The solution in TTL is use of the third person and the proposal that “the aim of mission is not simply to move people from the margins to centres of power but to confront those who remain the centre by keeping people on the margins. Instead, churches are called to transform power structures.”[9] This analysis turns the centre–margins paradigm into a powerful lever for change. Nonetheless, there is scope for work to be done at the conceptual level to sharpen and deepen our understanding of the nature and meaning of the margins. The greater a chord this concept strikes, the more beneficial it will be to have a highly developed understanding of what is involved in mission from the margins. Relevant case studies could play a significant role in this regard.

Therefore it is important to avoid generalization and instead contextualize as much as possible. For example, it is much more meaningful to speak about women and men, girls and boys, and how they experience their life. This will make a huge difference.

Transformation of power structures is one important perspective of mission from the margins. Another perspective is how the church can act more inclusively. For a long time the norm for leadership within the churches linked to the ecumenical movement seems to have been white, middle-aged, Western men. They came from contexts of political, economic, and military power. All other groups have in many policy papers been labelled marginalized. “Mission from the margins” urges the churches to look for the contribution that all different peoples and groups can make in order to strengthen the church as a life-affirming church. There has to be space made for the voices of people for whom space has been very limited. For example, women in most churches have experienced how their contributions have been less valued. Power structures have limited their space. The perspective of “mission from the margins” is offering a range of different experiences that churches cannot afford to live without.

One issue of marginalization prominent at the assembly was the situation of Christian minorities vulnerable to attack. “In Pakistan,” said Rt Rev. Samuel Azariah, Moderator of the Church of Pakistan, “we Christians are the margins.” Speaking at the Space for Inter-Religious Encounter (Inn-SPIRE), he referred to the recent attack on All Saints Church in Peshawar, where more than 80 people were killed and more than 100 injured.[10] On another occasion, leaders from the Syrian and Greek Orthodox churches called for the release of two bishops – Metropolitan Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim and Metropolitan Boulos Yazigi – who were kidnapped by an unknown group in Syria on 22 April 2013. “The way we feel in Syria is that the kidnapping of our two bishops, and the kidnapping of other priests and other faithful people, is a kidnapping of Christianity all over the world,” said H.E. Metropolitan Mor Eustathius Matta Roham, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East.[11]

A difficult issue for the assembly, predictably, was that of sexuality, on which there is wide variance of views among the member churches of the WCC. While it was not on the formal agenda, it was often the “elephant in the room” and occasionally surfaced into open debate. Though TTL does not address issues of human sexuality directly, its discourse on mission from the margins brings one contribution to the discussion. There can be little question that sexual minorities have been, and are, often found on the margins of society. A discourse of mission from the margins opens up the question of the place of such minorities within the mission of God. All indications are that sexuality will be a major site of struggle within the ecumenical movement for quite some time to come. TTL's invitation to us to locate ourselves on the margins may prove to be a constructive contribution in this regard.

Theology of life

  1. Top of page
  2. God of life, lead us to justice and peace
  3. Mission from the margins
  4. Theology of life
  5. Transformative spirituality
  6. Christian witness in a multi-religious world
  7. Church as agent of mission
  8. Leaders who engender mutual respect and reciprocity
  9. Breathe on us, breath of God
  10. Footnotes
  11. Biographies

Another central theme of TTL that rang through the assembly was its emphasis on “life” as a vital criterion for mission today. Given that life itself is currently at stake in several respects, this emphasis found resonance in an assembly that had taken “God of life” as its theme. There is no doubt that this theme strikes a chord in the contemporary context because it has rich biblical roots on which we may draw. It is, however, a very broad concept and capable of widely varying interpretations, so this may be another area in which there remains work to be done to attain maximum clarity, sharpness, and usefulness.

One vital task still to be completed is to fully work out the implications of adopting “life” as the criterion for discerning the action of the Spirit of God in the life of the world. In his recent IRM article, Gerrit Noort recognizes that “the emphasis on life-affirming mission is of crucial significance for TTL.” and that it “establishes a theological bridge between Christian faith, secular worldviews, indigenous religions and wisdom traditions.” He reports, however, that Dutch responses to TTL suggest “a critical step has been taken without sufficient theological debate about its implications for mission.”[12] Another way of looking at it is that TTL has started the debate and we are all invited to participate in it. It is to be hoped that this will not only be a discussion among professional missiologists but will also engage practitioners and indeed ordinary church members.

A significant statement of intention is evident in the fact that TTL is published with “A Practical Guide.”[13] Its value, as Kenneth Ross has stated, is

to offer a demonstration of what can be done by way of response in worship, reflection and action. A very important part of its purpose is to act as a catalyst to stimulate people in many different parts of the world to identify the stories, the songs, the prayers, the biblical reflection, and the lines of action that would bring the affirmation to life in their context. The more these are articulated and shared, the more there will be a truly ecumenical response to TTL.[14]

The worship of the assembly offered already some response along these lines. For example, the following prayer of confession and intercession demonstrates a keen sensitivity to the preciousness yet fragility of life and a passion for the flourishing of creation. It can be read as a liturgical expression of sections 19 to 23 of TTL:

  • Loving God,

  • we have failed you and abused the gift

  • you have given us.

  • We have offended you and defiled what

  • you have made.

  • Forgive us for betraying your trust.

  • Forgive us for our greed and arrogance.

  • Forgive us for what we have done to

  • your earth.

  • Forgive us for what we have done to

  • your oceans.

  • Forgive us for what we have done to

  • your creatures,

  • On the land, in the sky and in the

  • depths.

  • Hear, O God of Compassion:

  • The cries of the land have become a

  • desert;

  • land laid bare through corrupt

  • agricultural practices, pollution,

  • mining and deforestation.

  • The cries of the islands are drowning in the

  • rising seas,

  • oceans that rise with the melting of the ice.

  • The cries of distress from Mother Earth,

  • – storm and drought.

  • God of life,

  • heal your wounded earth.

  • Empower us to choose the road that

  • leads to life.

  • Guide us in the paths of righteousness

  • for your name's sake.

  • So that we might experience once again

  • your Shalom in the land and in the sea.

  • This we ask in the name of the one

  • who came that we might have life in

  • abundance,

  • your Son, our Saviour Jesus the Christ.

  • Amen. 15

Transformative spirituality

  1. Top of page
  2. God of life, lead us to justice and peace
  3. Mission from the margins
  4. Theology of life
  5. Transformative spirituality
  6. Christian witness in a multi-religious world
  7. Church as agent of mission
  8. Leaders who engender mutual respect and reciprocity
  9. Breathe on us, breath of God
  10. Footnotes
  11. Biographies

The persistent affirmation of the “God of life” and “Together towards life” invites the participants on life's journey to embrace a life-giving spirituality that can empower people to live in harmony with God. We are invited to be transformed from being possessed with selfish agendas to focusing on the common good of the entire community. Transformative Christian spirituality calls for embracing lifestyles that demonstrate the sacredness of all life.

Social change has resulted in pluralities and diversities that sometimes breed conflict, and many persons are no longer willing to give their allegiance to any centre. The experience of democracy in the contemporary neoliberal economic model functions like a bubble in a very delicate state of existence that can easily burst so that its life-sustaining contents are spilt. Therefore, the kind of spirituality that emanates from the “God of life” invites all to experience full and meaningful participation.

The economic globalization that created the market system – also directly connected to the democratic system of governance – is in deep crisis. In the global economies, the market is given divine and infallible status. It is fused into the democratic model of governance and is made “sacred” as the most efficient institution for the production and allocation of resources. There is an insatiable competitive drive for profit that ensures that there are winners (those who can know best and use market information) and losers (those who failed to know and use market information).

It follows that a democratic society that is built on spiritual values that are morally misapplied becomes a dysfunctional and destructive society. Transformative spiritualities therefore call for the overthrow of the rogue spirit of greed that provides the energy to lubricate a market that enslaves those who live on the margins. The advice of Jesus is thus pertinent: “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15).

TTL has acknowledged the subject of greed and love of money as a threat to transforming life. The influential power of money has done much to corrupt the identity, vocation, and witness of church leaders. Their hands are not clean, as they have proved to be ill-equipped to deal with the addictive nature of mammon. In the missional formation of leaders much more emphasis must be given to strong character formation in relation to dealing with money. The lack of public trust in Christian leaders is increasing as people lose confidence in their capacity to be authentic. Formation of missional leaders should aim at developing credible and just business ethics.

A powerful moment at the Busan assembly came at the Justice Plenary when Martin Kohr, executive director of the South Centre-Malaysia, exposed the extent to which the powerful few have used the global free market to advance their own interests at the cost of deepening poverty for many and untold damage to the environment. TTL not only resonates with this analysis but tells us that we can do something about it:

Mission spirituality motivates us to serve God's economy of life, not mammon, to share life at God's table rather than satisfy individual greed, to pursue change toward a better world while challenging the self-interest of the powerful who desire to maintain the status quo.[16]

In other words, the TTL urges us to transform church membership into discipleship. This discipleship has to be visible in the many aspects of life. As TTL points out, the Christian faith is not isolated to one or two areas. It is not narrow-minded. “Mission is not a project of expanding the churches but of the church embodying God′s salvation in the world.”[17] In many aspects of life God′s salvation is needed and the church has a call to make this salvation visible.

A strong moment at the Lausanne Convention in Cape Town in 2010 was when Samuel Escobar and René Padilla talked about urgent challenges for the evangelical movement. The areas they reflected upon were economic justice and the need to challenge the existing system, and the responsibility for creation in order to secure the existence of new generations and as the third area discipleship. They both said that what are needed today are not converts, but disciples. What are needed today are people willing to live in accordance with the gospel, for whom salvation means something both in their physical and in their spiritual life.

The changing landscape in the church's ministry and mission during the second decade of the 21st century finds the church in a very precarious and vulnerable situation. The environment is no longer predictable and has become increasingly unfriendly. The fallout from this situation can be seen in the daunting challenge of public distrust and disappointment with the church and the perception that Christians are unable to meet the needs of building wholesome, life-protecting communities. No longer can the church depend on its past privileged status to determine its authenticity. Rather, people are valuing its purpose – its authenticity – based on its living out what it is called to be and do. For this to be realized, the changing landscape calls for the emergence of a new breed of missional leaders. Such leaders will be formed through the experience of radical metanonia that facilitates hermeneutical repentance, giving them eyes, ears, and heart to see, hear, and respond to the cries of people and all creation in “Christ's way.”

Prophetic diakonia plays a crucial role in the transformative mission, which is about salvation in its many dimensions. Different dimensions and expressions of the church have to look for synergies. Diakonia, at least in the form of international development cooperation, has tended to follow its own track in order to increase professionalism and to avoid being accused of the hidden agenda of forced conversion. TTL is offering a framework for transformative mission including extensive work on climate issues and discussions around economic justice and the eradication of poverty. The different tracks therefore need to come together in a more visible way in order to nurture each other. It will make the church and the disciples better equipped to embody God′s salvation in the world.

A prayer from Asia, offered at the opening of the Busan assembly, expresses this yearning for transformation:

  • Empowering God,

  • we see you in the resilience,

  • resistance and creativity of

  • the weary and heavy-laden,

  • the crushed lives and broken relationships.

  • Transform our greed to consume

  • into a thirst to share;

  • confront our collective insanity

  • that thrives on abuse of nature

  • and people,

  • and wash us clean of carelessness

  • and callousness.

  • God of our life and all life,

  • Sanctify the earth and all her

  • people.

  • Hear our cries.

  • Grant us hope.[18]

Christian witness in a multi-religious world

  1. Top of page
  2. God of life, lead us to justice and peace
  3. Mission from the margins
  4. Theology of life
  5. Transformative spirituality
  6. Christian witness in a multi-religious world
  7. Church as agent of mission
  8. Leaders who engender mutual respect and reciprocity
  9. Breathe on us, breath of God
  10. Footnotes
  11. Biographies

As might be expected at an assembly held in Asia, the world's most religiously diverse continent, questions of inter-faith relations were prominent. Leaders of other faith communities participated in the assembly and some were invited to address plenary sessions.

A shadow was cast over the proceedings by two events that occurred just over a month before they opened. As mentioned above, All Saints Church in Peshawar, Pakistan, was bombed at the close of Sunday worship on Sunday, 22 September 2013, resulting in horrific loss of life. Over the very same weekend, the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, was attacked by al-Shabab militia, again resulting in the deaths of many innocent civilians. While a variety of factors were at play in these terrible incidents, there can be no mistaking the fact that inter-religious tensions played a part. As Peniel Rajkumar remarked, “At this point, like Abel's blood which called out to God from the ground, the prayer ‘God of life, lead us to justice and peace’ … seemed almost to rise from the blood of the innocent and from the cries of the bereaved and injured.”[19] These events underlined how much is at stake in inter-faith relations and how important it is that mission is understood and practised with sensitivity towards our multi-faith context.

Many have struggled with the question of how to reconcile their commitment to confess Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord with a sense that God is working in many different ways, and often through surprising channels, in the life of our world. The Spirit-centred understanding of mission that runs through TTL is very liberating in this regard. It means we can think in terms of a “Christian witness which unceasingly proclaims the salvific power of God through Jesus Christ and constantly affirms God's dynamic involvement, through the Holy Spirit, in the whole created world.”[20] TTL points us to ways of engaging with “others” with deep respect and friendship while sharing with them our confidence in the gospel of Christ in a “mutual encounter of commitments.”[21] In our plural and divided world, that is certainly an urgent issue! At a time when so much blood is being shed in the name of religion, this opens up pathways to justice and peace.

An important piece of work has been completed by the WCC, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and the World Evangelical Alliance in developing joint recommendations for conduct, published under the title Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World.[22] TTL draws inspiration from this joint statement and comments, “Aware of tensions between people and communities of different religious convictions and varied interpretations of Christian witness, authentic evangelism must always be guided by life-affirming values.”[23] The recommendations include such issues as building relationships of respect and trust with people of all religions, encouraging Christians to strengthen their own religious identity and faith while deepening their knowledge and understanding of different religions, and calling on governments to ensure that freedom of religion is properly and comprehensively respected.

Church as agent of mission

  1. Top of page
  2. God of life, lead us to justice and peace
  3. Mission from the margins
  4. Theology of life
  5. Transformative spirituality
  6. Christian witness in a multi-religious world
  7. Church as agent of mission
  8. Leaders who engender mutual respect and reciprocity
  9. Breathe on us, breath of God
  10. Footnotes
  11. Biographies

Of the four main sections of TTL, it appears that it is the first two – “Spirit of Mission: Breath of Life” and “Spirit of Liberation: Mission from the Margins” – that have received the lion's share of attention. Arguably this may be because they are particularly theologically innovative and successful in reconceiving mission within our contemporary context. Nonetheless, we would argue that the second half of the affirmation – “Spirit of Community: Church on the Move” and “Spirit of Pentecost: Good News for All” – is no less important for the future of the church's life and witness.

Section 58, for example, makes far-reaching claims about the relation of church and mission:

it is not the church that has a mission but rather the mission that has a church … Apostolicity is not only safeguarding the faith of the church through the ages but also participating in the apostolate. Thus the churches mainly and foremost need to be missionary churches.[24]

If such a conviction is taken seriously, it will call for major reappraisal and rethinking – whether in setting priorities and direction at the level of the local congregation, shaping the approach of regional or national governance structures, or determining the orientation of programmes of leadership formation.

It is clear that the impact of TTL arises to a considerable extent from the broad and comprehensive view that it takes of mission. By thinking of mission in terms of the triune life of God, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the flourishing of creation, and the crying need for justice to be done in human affairs, the new affirmation not only gives mission a central place theologically but positions it in such a way that it is relevant to our most urgent contemporary challenges.

This is not to imply, however, that the everyday life of the churches is to be neglected. On the contrary, sections 72 to 79 focus attention specifically on the local congregation. Let there be no mistaking the conviction that, “local congregations are frontiers and primary agents of mission.”[25] To fulfill this role today calls for fresh thinking and new initiatives in such areas as worship, Bible study, diversity of membership, global connections, advocacy for justice, and acts of service. TTL will not have fulfilled its purpose until local congregations around the world have used it as a prompt to renew their life and mission.

For the renewal of the life and mission of local congregations, their understanding of their location within the worldwide church is crucial. A deepened understanding of interdependence, of being part of the body of Christ, is a condition for renewal. This renewal leads to a rethinking of what is involved in resourcing our common mission. All of us need to define both resources and needs and to accept an interdependence. Local congregations, as primary agents for mission, can never fulfill this role on their own. As TTL points out, the landscape is changing radically due to the flows of migration. This represents potential enrichment for local churches, which can receive inputs and experiences from the worldwide church by being open to people from other contexts coming to join them.

God's mission doesn't know any geographical borders. It is the same with much of what is life-denying today. In order to embody God′s salvation in the world, we must take responsibility in our local context, at the same time seeing ourselves as part of the worldwide church. TTL lets us understand that we belong to each other and that God′s salvation has to do with all aspects of life.

Leaders who engender mutual respect and reciprocity

  1. Top of page
  2. God of life, lead us to justice and peace
  3. Mission from the margins
  4. Theology of life
  5. Transformative spirituality
  6. Christian witness in a multi-religious world
  7. Church as agent of mission
  8. Leaders who engender mutual respect and reciprocity
  9. Breathe on us, breath of God
  10. Footnotes
  11. Biographies

The new environment for engaging in ministry and mission requires the church's institutions for training and formation to give urgent priority to reviewing the undergirding theologies of leadership that inform their missional understanding and praxis. What does it mean for missional leaders to be formed in order for them to lead lives worthy of their calling (Eph. 4:1)? The traditional model of equipping church leaders must go beyond mere focus on morals and ethics that are unconnected to how persons live within their local context. Leadership formation must be intentionally interdisciplinary and ecumenical.

Contemporary contexts around the world find leaders from diverse religions using God's name to legitimize the actions of their followers who commit heinous crimes against humanity. Our so-called increasingly “God-fearing world” is increasingly becoming more unsafe, especially for minorities within a majority faith culture.

The old agenda that shaped the response of ecclesial leaders of the 20th century has radically shifted, and the pendulum has swung to prioritize “life and work” agenda issues. However, if lessons are not learnt from how earlier leaders responded to the mission and evangelism agenda, then serious mistakes will also be made. TTL reminds us that the Holy Spirit is seeking to restore the church to the missio Dei. Therefore, missional leadership must be open to the surprising work of the Spirit to uphold and celebrate the unity of the church that is not under one global hierarchical structure, but is a matter of practical expressions of unity in every local context.

The methodology of renewing global mission leadership must be one that enables leaders to negotiate contextual ecclesial differences and tensions. This style of leadership must therefore be formed through genuine ecumenical learning that engenders mutual respect and mutual reciprocity in order to have relevance in our contemporary context.

Breathe on us, breath of God

  1. Top of page
  2. God of life, lead us to justice and peace
  3. Mission from the margins
  4. Theology of life
  5. Transformative spirituality
  6. Christian witness in a multi-religious world
  7. Church as agent of mission
  8. Leaders who engender mutual respect and reciprocity
  9. Breathe on us, breath of God
  10. Footnotes
  11. Biographies

The experience of the Busan assembly has confirmed that the key concepts and leading ideas of TTL strike a chord in many, many contexts around the world today. It has also revealed that there is more work to be done on these concepts and ideas – to sharpen their definition, to deepen their theological meaning, and to extend their range by exploring their interpretation in a greater variety of contexts. TTL is an agenda-setting affirmation, offering a series of points that call for analysis and application. There is work to be done, for example, in thinking through its implications for the policy-making bodies of churches and mission agencies as well as for institutions of theological education and leadership formation. Not least, it has a life awaiting it in the everyday faith, action, and discipleship of churches at community level.

Since the affirmation is made in terms of the Holy Spirit and since it strikes a note of invitation to everyone, it leaves us with the question: What are we going to do with this text? We might admire its intellectual achievement in distilling so much that needs to be said about mission and evangelism into such concise terms. We might acknowledge its institutional status as the first official statement on mission from the WCC for thirty years. But that will not be enough. As a Holy Spirit text, it calls for response at the spiritual level. In fact, its aim is to ignite a worldwide spiritual movement that will renew the church for mission.

This is where “The Practical Guide” has an indispensable role to play. It takes the core convictions of TTL and expresses them in the language and the forms of communication that are in everyday use in the life of the churches. It invites us to go beyond reading TTL by praying it, singing it, setting it in story form, and reflecting on it in Bible study. It asks us pointed questions about what we are going to do about it – in personal life, in church life, in the governance of our institutions, and in formation of our leaders.

Moreover, it goes further. For it does not intend to be an end in itself. Rather it is intended to be the yeast which causes the loaf to rise, the small catalyst which ignites a far-reaching movement. Its intention is that it will provide a model and a provocation which will move people all around the world to tell their stories, offer their prayers, sing their songs, bring their experience to the reading of the Bible. It is only when TTL has been thought through in thousands of different contexts around the world that it will have its intended effect.

Such a movement can have cumulative effect as people from different contexts share their experience, deepening our understanding of TTL and challenging us to go further with its implementation. As Peter Cruchley-Jones put it at Busan,

Mindful of each other's pain, inspired by each other's story, affirmed by each other's acceptance, fired by each other's passion, strengthened by each other's company we can be filled with the Spirit and thus express and embody: God of life: lead us into justice and peace.[26]

People who are called, sent, and empowered for mission will connect with kindred spirits. TTL suggests the content and the direction that can create a new movement of mission for our time. The Spirit is moving. We are invited to join in.

Footnotes

  1. Top of page
  2. God of life, lead us to justice and peace
  3. Mission from the margins
  4. Theology of life
  5. Transformative spirituality
  6. Christian witness in a multi-religious world
  7. Church as agent of mission
  8. Leaders who engender mutual respect and reciprocity
  9. Breathe on us, breath of God
  10. Footnotes
  11. Biographies
  • 1
    Jooseop Keum ed., Together Towards Life: Mission and Evangelism in Changing Landscapes (Geneva: WCC Publications, 2013).
  • 2
    Mission from the Margins,” Madang: The Daily Newspaper of the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches, 5 November 2013, no. 5, p. 1.
  • 3
    Message of the 10th Assembly of the WCC, Document No. MC01 (WCC, 2013).
  • 4
    Madang, 1 November 2013, p. 3.
  • 5
    Metropolitan Dr Geevarghese Mor Coorilos, Address to the 10th Assembly of the WCC, Busan, Republic of Korea, 4 November 2013.
  • 6
    Kirsteen Kim and Andrew Anderson , eds., Edinburgh 2010: Mission Today and Tomorrow (Oxford: Regnum, 2011), 1.
  • 7
    Together Towards Life, 15, ¶38.
  • 8
    Hyunju Bae, “Bible Study 4 – Being and Becoming Church: The Spirit-Filled Genesis,” in God of Life: Bible Studies for Peace and Justice, ed. Jooseop Keum (Geneva: WCC, 2013), 34.
  • 9
    Together Towards Life, 16, ¶40.
  • 10
    Pakistan Church Leader: ‘We are the Margins,’ Madang, 6 November 2013, p. 5.
  • 11
    A Kidnapping of Christianity All Over the World,” Madang, 5 November 2013, p. 13.
  • 12
    Gerrit Noort, “ ‘So What?’ – Dutch Responses to the New Mission Statement,” International Review of Mission 102.2 (397) (November 2013), 194195.
  • 13
    See Together Towards Life, 4381.
  • 14
    Kenneth R. Ross, “From Talk to Power: Application of Together Towards Life in Local Churches,” International Review of Mission 102.2 (397) (November 2013), 157.
  • 15
    Hallelujah! Resources for Prayer and Praise: WCC 10th Assembly, Busan 2013 (Geneva: WCC, 2013), 52.
  • 16
    Together Towards Life, 13, ¶30.
  • 17
    Together Towards Life, 22, ¶58.
  • 18
    Opening Prayer: World Council of Churches 10th Assembly (Geneva: WCC, 2013), 10.
  • 19
    Peniel Jesudason Rufus Rajkumar, “Editorial,” Current Dialogue 55 (September 2013), 2.
  • 20
    Together Towards Life, 9, ¶18, our emphasis.
  • 21
    Together Towards Life, 35, ¶95.
  • 22
    World Council of Churches, Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and World Evangelical Alliance, Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World: Recommendations for Conduct, 2011.
  • 23
    Together Towards Life, 33, ¶90.
  • 24
    Together Towards Life, 22, ¶58.
  • 25
    Together Towards Life, 27, ¶73.
  • 26
    Peter Cruchley-Jones, “Together towards Life: Mission Statement Introduction for Ecumenical Conversation at Busan,” presentation at Ecumenical Conversation 07, 10th Assembly of the WCC, Busan, 1 November 2013.

Biographies

  1. Top of page
  2. God of life, lead us to justice and peace
  3. Mission from the margins
  4. Theology of life
  5. Transformative spirituality
  6. Christian witness in a multi-religious world
  7. Church as agent of mission
  8. Leaders who engender mutual respect and reciprocity
  9. Breathe on us, breath of God
  10. Footnotes
  11. Biographies
  • Rev. Prof. Kenneth R. Ross is a Church of Scotland minister at Netherlorn in Argyll and Hon. Fellow of the University of Edinburgh School of Divinity. He has served as professor of Theology at the University of Malawi and general secretary of the Church of Scotland Board of World Mission.

  • Mrs Eva Christina Nilsson is general secretary of the Swedish Mission Council, a cooperation between 34 churches and mission and development organizations in Sweden. She has worked with the ecumenical and international efforts of the Church of Sweden.

  • Rev. Dr Roderick Hewitt is academic leader for Theology and Ethics, and Senior Lecturer in the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics (SRPC) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He has served as a pastor in the United Church of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands and as executive programme secretary and moderator of the Council for World Mission.