Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Mission in the Context of Empire Putting Justice at the Heart of Faith

Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Mission in the Context of Empire Putting Justice at the Heart of Faith

Article excerpt

The creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God.... The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay.

Romans 8:19-21

Introductory Remarks

Since the launch at Manila, the Philippines, in December 2008, of Oikotree (1)--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 A GAPE, 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 faring in today's world'".

Faith and empire (2)

We are living in a kairos moment, comparable to the time before the Flood (deluge). Life on earth as a whole is threatened by direct, structural and cultural violence. Weapons of mass destruction can extinguish all life, climate change is having disastrous consequences, imperial capitalist and scientific-technological civilization has created an unsustainable way of life. What, in this situation, is the calling (and mission) of the worldwide Christian community, if it wants to witness to God? This question is not optional. If the church does not respond to it, she should stop using the name of God and Jesus, the Messiah. God is called the God of Life and Jesus the Life of the World. As the threat to life is caused by unjust relationships between humans and the earth as well as between humans among themselves, justice becomes the central issue. …

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