Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Mission in the Context of Empire: CWM Theology Statement 2010

Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Mission in the Context of Empire: CWM Theology Statement 2010

Article excerpt


A group of fifteen theologians from CWM member churches and ecumenical partners met in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from 1-5 February 2010 to constitute a theology working group. The task of the group was to reflect on CWM's journey to date and our current global context. We were also given the task of articulating the theological grounding and mission implications of CWM's new vision and mission statements with a view to informing CWM's strategy and its implementation.


Fullness of life through Christ for all creation


Called to partnership in Christ to mutually challenge, encourage, and equip churches to share in God's mission

We met at a time when the world was still struggling to come to terms with the devastation resulting from the earthquake in Haiti. The calamity compounding the lives of the people on this small island nation brought to the fore the stark reality of our world ensnared in the clutches of Empire. Throughout most of its history the people of Haiti had been systematically exploited by colonial powers to serve the global economic greed of large businesses. The people and land were stripped of all recourse to life. Even in the midst of death and destruction the legacies of imperial exploitation denied the right of the Haitian people to rebuild their lives from the rubble. Although some countries stepped up to absolve a small fraction of the financial debts of the Haitian people they failed to stand up and absolve themselves of the monumental moral debts that they had incurred against the people of Haiti.

The structures of injustice and exploitation continued to compete for dominance and the people of Haiti were once again relegated to the status of beneficiaries of the charitable actions of benevolent external powers. At no time in the minds of the Powers were the people of Haiti acknowledged as equals. None regarded them as the subjects of their history, and none accorded them the respect as a people capable of reconstructing life from destruction. Precious few acknowledged them as partners, willing to stand alongside them, to accompany them on their long journey to wholeness and fullness of life.

Though the events surrounding the people of Haiti occurred in one small part of our world there are echoes of it in many other places, not least Palestine, the cradle of our faith, where religion manifests itself as yet another dimension of the complexities and challenges of the present context in which we live and bear witness to the gospel of life. Against this background we began our reflections.

Mission in the Context of Empire

God's mission has always taken place in the midst of Empire. God becomes incarnate through Jesus in an imperial world. From the time of his birth Jesus' life was threatened by Empire, and we learn in the gospel accounts that it is the Empire and its allies who eventually execute him. His birth was heralded as so great a threat that the ruler Herod, an ally of the Roman Empire, saw immediately the need to dispense of the baby Jesus and ends up killing all male children up to the age of two. Jesus and his parents flee the oppressive regime at home and find asylum in Egypt. And though the immediate threat passes they are unable to return to their home as the shadow of death still loomed over their land. Such was the power of the Roman Empire and those like Herod who colluded with it. The same power, manifesting itself throughout the religious as well as political establishment, eventually executes Jesus, and as Mary McKenna cautions us to remember: "To say Jesus died on the cross for our sin is often to ignore or forget that he died because he was dangerous to a society that wanted to hold onto its power. Jesus died on the cross for his beliefs, his idea of God, his preaching, his siding with the poor and the outcast." (3) While the story of his birth and his eventual execution tell a story of adversity in the midst of Empire, the story of Jesus also tells a story of defiance in the face of death, and more importantly, through his resurrection, it tells a story of hope. …

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