Academic journal article International Review of Mission

New WCC Ecumenical Affirmation on Mission and Evangelism

Academic journal article International Review of Mission

New WCC Ecumenical Affirmation on Mission and Evangelism

Article excerpt

Report of Listeners Group

In March 2012, approximately 226 people gathered in Manila, the Philippines, to review the 11th draft of the new ecumenical affirmation on mission and evangelism, Together Towards Life: Mission and Evangelism in Changing Landscapes. The gathered assembly read and reflected on the document, then offered feedback in preparation for a revised statement to be presented to the 10m Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Busan, Republic of Korea, in 2013. Comments and reflections offered through talakayan (table group conversations) were received by the Listeners Group.

In order to process what it heard from the millions of words exchanged in the course of an excellent conference, the Listeners Group adopted four categories which have been applied to the document. These are:

(a) Appreciation and affirmation

(b) Contested points: concepts and language being challenged

(c) Critiques: points missing or underemphasized

(d) Format and style

In order to absorb and reflect all that it has heard in the course of the conference, the Listeners Group has prepared two documents. The present document seeks to synthesize and summarize the main points which have emerged from the conference. The second document is considerably longer and incorporates a great number of specific points which can contribute to the revision of the text.

1. The document as a whole

1.1 Appreciation and affirmation

1.1.1 The conference was gripped and energized by the text. It has been described as "stimulating," "exciting," "biblically-based," "timely," "inclusive," "humble," "bottom-up," "rich," "comprehensive," and "helpful," Several groups shared that their critical remarks need to be heard in the context of an overall enthusiasm for the directions being taken by the text.

1.1.2 The pneumatological turn in missio Dei thinking is much appreciated and widely welcomed. It creates a framework where:

* confident affirmation of the particularity of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, sits in balance with a radical openness to the presence and activity of the Spirit of God in the life of the world and its people;

* mission has creation at its heart and the practice of mission includes a vital ecological dimension;

* criticisms of mission are met by honestly acknowledging shortcomings in its practice in the past, showing that mission is not incompatible with respecting everyone and demonstrating that it gives rise to celebration, transformation and hope;

* the result is a large and compelling vision of mission to take to the heart of the life of the churches.

1.1.3 Self-aware and self-critical analysis combined with theological creativity have forged an understanding of mission and evangelism which can be commended in our times.

1.2 Contested points

1.2.1 The subject

The use of the first person plural--"we"--has been troubling for many participants since it is often unclear to whom the pronoun is intended to refer. The fact that "we" often seems to refer to the decision-makers, the powerful, the "centre," does not sit easily in a document which aims to champion mission from and with the margins.

1.3 Critiques: points missing or underemphasized

1.3.1 Transformation at the personal level

Many participants have pointed out that the text is very light on faith, conversion, baptism and personal discipleship. As one group commented: "Conversion should be more related to a personal relationship to God, and transformation should begin with the personal."

1.3.2 Local church as agent of mission

We have been reminded of the contention of Lesslie Newbigin that "the only possible hermeneutic of the gospel is a congregation which believes it." However, as one group read the text, "we see little direction for the local churches to be a more proactive transforming drive in today's changing landscape of mission and evangelism. …

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