Mission in the Context of Empire
Putting Justice at the Heart of Faith
Article first published online: 16 APR 2012
Copyright © (2012) World Council of Churches
International Review of Mission
Volume 101, Issue 1, pages 195–211, April 2012
How to Cite
(2012), Mission in the Context of Empire. International Review of Mission, 101: 195–211. doi: 10.1111/j.1758-6631.2012.00094.x
- Issue published online: 16 APR 2012
- Article first published online: 16 APR 2012
Since the launch at Manila, the Philippines, in December 2008, of Oikotree – a joint initiative of and sponsored by the Council for World Mission (CWM), the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) and the World Council of Churches (WCC) – founding members, commissioners of the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism, mission specialists, women and men, Indigenous Peoples, and people from the four corners of the world, representing different Christian traditions, took part in the Oikotree study process toward a new WCC ecumenical mission affirmation.
I would like to express my wholehearted thanks to all involved for their collaboration and common efforts that led to the present text.
The document starts with “faith and empire” and examines the meaning of evangelion, a term with its origin in the Roman Empire. Then follow deliberations on the development and implications of the issues of “mission and economic justice” and “mission and ecological justice”, from the past centuries of the Christian era till today. In its last part, the paper points to “alternative visions: from a life-destroying to a life-enhancing culture for the twenty-first century”.
What can churches from the South, the East, Indigenous Peoples, contribute to addressing the crisis and ecological disasters of this age, which scientists call the anthropocene age, in which human beings have become a central global force and to which (as the document notes) “the worldwide expansion of Western civilization through Christian mission” is seen as one of the major contributors?
The text refers to recent ecumenical initiatives, such as AGAPE, the Accra Confession, Transforming Economic Globalization, Mission in the Context of Empire, as well as the Buddhist “International Network of Engaged Buddhism”. It introduces peoples' wisdoms: the African culture of Ubuntu (“I live because you live – you live because I live”); the Asian concept of Sangsaeng (“living inter-supportive”); the Andean el buen vivir (sumaq kawsay in Quechua, “living well”); as well as Martin Buber's “Love your neighbour – it is yourself!”.
“As we move into this new Creation Community, based on God's upside-down evangelion, an alternative epistemology, both holistic and inclusive, is needed. … We must understand, with Mercy Amba Oduyoye, that we need to expand the human vision of neighbourliness … to include all creation, seen and unseen. … The earth is, willy-nilly, our common neighbourhood'. We must abandon the capitalistic, divisive, egocentric, independent ideology of consumerism and competition.” As stated by “the Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers, … ‘There is an order and a structure to the universe … All things are dependent upon each other. This is why reciprocity and remembering to hold the relations among all people, and all things as sacred balances the universe. Any actions that destroy life lead to imbalance, which is what we are facing in today's world'”.