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Brief description of the purpose of the conversation

  1. Top of page
  2. Brief description of the purpose of the conversation
  3. Narrative report of the proceedings
  4. Affirmations
  5. Challenges
  6. Suggestions

Objectives

  • To share the new concepts and directions of mission in Together Towards Life (TTL).
  • To encourage renewed commitment to ecumenical endeavour on mission.
  • To develop strategies on how to implement the new mission statement at the various levels of local congregations, mission boards of the member churches, international mission organizations, CWME, etc.
  • To foster mission spirituality and spiritual empowerment in the mission of the Holy Spirit.

Expected outcomes

  • To encourage churches and mission bodies to recommit themselves to the new directions of mission.
  • To develop strategies for the application of the new mission concepts in Together Towards Life.
  • To develop affirmations, challenges, and suggestions on new ways for joining in the mission of the Spirit.

Narrative report of the proceedings

  1. Top of page
  2. Brief description of the purpose of the conversation
  3. Narrative report of the proceedings
  4. Affirmations
  5. Challenges
  6. Suggestions

Session 1 – Thursday, 31 October 2013

The first session was introduced by the moderator, Rev. Silishebo Silishebo of the United Church of Zambia, who arranged the participants into groups of ten for purposes of discussion. A memorable contribution was made by a group of young people from the National Council of Churches of the Philippines, who presented Luke 4:16–24 in the form of dance.

The changing landscapes of mission were assessed by Rev. Dr Septemmy E. Lakawa of Jakarta Theological Seminary, Indonesia. The southward shift of world Christianity has led, she argued, to a new awareness of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, who gives voice to the voiceless and power to the powerless. “Landscapes of Empire” manifested in different religious and political powers that discriminate, violate, and marginalize stand in contrast to “Landscapes of the Spirit” expressed in the lives of local communities as they dare to imagine life in its abundance in the face of the destruction of life. The true Christian approach to the “other” is one of “risky hospitality” – particularly challenging when there has been a history of pain, injury and mutual suspicion.

New directions of mission found in Together Towards Life were highlighted by Peter Cruchley-Jones of the United Reformed Church in the UK and Carmen Fernandez Aguinaco of the Roman Catholic Church in the US. Peter expounded Isaiah 61 as offering a vision of the commissioning Spirit acting companionably and compassionately to bring life and peace and justice. He concluded: “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.” Carmen discerned that there has been a movement from understanding mission as “doing to others” and “doing for others” to doing with others and allowing others to do to us. Mission today calls for a spirituality of accompaniment. As we move from self-centredness to kenosis (self-emptying) we discover mission as “the heartbeat of God” (Stephen Bevans).

Session 2 – Friday, 1 November 2013

The session was moderated by Rev. Fr Archpriest Mikhail Gundiaev, who called for reports from groups on the three words they found to be important in regard to the new mission affirmation. Prominent words included changing landscapes, Holy Spirit, life, margins, transformation, relationships, dialogue, kenosis, hospitality, vulnerability, accompaniment, creation, witness.

New models of mission were presented by Philip Woods of the Council for World Mission (CWM), Olga Olenik of the Orthodox Mission Network, and Raafat Girgis of the Presbyterian Church (US). Philip outlined the CWM approach to developing “missional congregations.” Their defining characteristics are that they live a spirituality of engagement, are attuned to the communities in which they are set, work in active partnership, and are learning communities. Olga acknowledged that Orthodox mission is “a work still limited” (Archbishop Anastasios Yannoulatos) but highlighted the current creation of an informal network of Orthodox mission actors that aims to encourage mission work, give it greater visibility, and provide relevant training. Raafat argued that today many societies are becoming multicultural, and therefore multicultural congregations are required for purposes of mission. He defined a multicultural congregation as one that intentionally seeks to recognize, celebrate, and incorporate a diverse membership that reflects the racial, economic, cultural, and theological make-up of the community.

New models suggested through group discussion included local churches taking responsibility for mission; adopting a new attitude of humility; coming alongside; being interested in neighbours; creating welcoming spaces where mutual encounter can take place; creating space for immigrant groups; person-to-person evangelism; church-planting; engaging issues of social justice; taking liturgy into public spaces such as shopping malls; forming multi-ethnic congregations.

Session 3 – Monday, 4 November 2013

The session was moderated by Eva Christina Nilsson, who welcomed the choir from Busan Presbyterian University and Seminary and invited them to begin the session with song. She explained that the direction of the conversation was now turning to the question of implementation of TTL and that this topic would be introduced by her, Kenneth Ross, and Roderick Hewitt.

Kenneth Ross recognized the great value of TTL but pointed out that its very success in making a concise and concentrated statement made it difficult to access for those who are not used to working with dense theological texts. The practical guide published with the statement was an attempt to translate its convictions into the currency in use in the churches – prayers, songs, Bible studies, stories, and digital resources.

A three-way conversation between Eva Christian Nilsson, Roderick Hewitt, and Kenneth Ross highlighted some of the salient features of TTL, indicating ways in which it could offer inspiration and stimulation to individuals, churches, agencies, and educational institutions.

The conversation then divided into three streams to consider implementation in three different spheres: (1) local congregations; (2) policy-making bodies; and (3) theological education and formation.

Session 4 – Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The final session was introduced by the moderator, Rev. Silishebo Silishebo, who circulated a first draft of the affirmations, challenges, and suggestions of the conversation. He invited participants to return to their groups to consider how the draft could be sharpened, enriched and extended.

After a period of group discussion, the findings of the groups were reported to a plenary session. Participants agreed to authorize the leadership group to revise and finalize the report on the conversation in light of the comments and suggestions that had been made. The moderator sincerely thanked all participants for their contributions and handed over to the CWME moderator for the conclusion.

The moderator of CWME, Metropolitan Dr Geevarghese Mor Coorilos, brought the thanks of the commission to all moderators, resource persons, and participants, assuring them that their comments, recommendations, challenges, and suggestions would be taken very seriously by CWME as far as its future work is concerned. He welcomed the fact that mission and evangelism had been at the heart of the assembly, with a plenary session on mission for the first time in 21 years and two ecumenical conversations on mission themes.

Affirmations

  1. Top of page
  2. Brief description of the purpose of the conversation
  3. Narrative report of the proceedings
  4. Affirmations
  5. Challenges
  6. Suggestions

The conversation recognized “changing landscapes” as an apt description of the context of mission and evangelism today. It welcomed the WCC's adoption of Together Towards Life and affirmed, in particular:

  • its ecumenical character;
  • its trinitarian understanding of the mission of God;
  • its understanding of mission as the action of the Holy Spirit in the life of the world;
  • its identification of “life” as criterion for discerning the Spirit's presence;
  • its attention to the flourishing of creation;
  • its emphasis on mission from the margins;
  • its stress on transformative spirituality;
  • its affirmation of the church, at all levels and in all shapes, as agent of mission;
  • its recognition of multicultural and intercultural ministries; and
  • its holistic understanding of mission and evangelism.

Challenges

  1. Top of page
  2. Brief description of the purpose of the conversation
  3. Narrative report of the proceedings
  4. Affirmations
  5. Challenges
  6. Suggestions

Explore ways in which Christian mission can engage with different spiritualities in today's world. How can we discern the presence of the Spirit of God?

Attain greater clarity on the meaning of “changing landscapes,” “life,” and “mission from the margins.”

Undertake further work on Christian witness in a multi-religious context.

Give greater attention to contexts where Christians are vulnerable and suffering.

Further explore mission as healing and how to develop this in the churches.

Ensure that TTL informs the central planning and decision-making bodies of the churches (not only the mission boards) and inspires the organizational change required to fulfil its vision.

Deepen the reflection on the close relationship between mission and evangelism.

Suggestions

  1. Top of page
  2. Brief description of the purpose of the conversation
  3. Narrative report of the proceedings
  4. Affirmations
  5. Challenges
  6. Suggestions

Develop a TTL website (possibly with associated social media) as a resource for local congregations, which will include translations into local languages, short presentations, definitions of key terms, case studies, and contextual reflections.

Undertake further work on relational models of mission, with attention to humility, vulnerability, gender, accompaniment, partnership, kenosis, dialogue, and hospitality.

Engage with Christian development agencies/special ministries in order to discern synergies between prophetic diakonia and transformative mission.

Undertake further theological work to unpack, “tease out,” and contextualize the affirmations of TTL.

Develop modules for inclusion of TTL in the curriculum of theological schools; and make the case for such modules to be mandatory.

Hold seminars at the regional level to introduce TTL to churches, schools, and agencies.