Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Together towards Life: Norwegian Reflections

Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Together towards Life: Norwegian Reflections

Article excerpt

The new Commission on World Mission and Evangelism (CWME) mission document has received widespread attention in Norway. Two mini-conferences were arranged last fall, with the CWME-secretary Jooseop Keum taking part in both. The conferences offered a platform for responses and comments from church and mission leaders. They were widely covered by the two Christian dailies in Norway (Dagen and Cart Land), which also opened their columns for the ensuing debate between ecumenicals and evangelicals. The backdrop to this debate goes back to New Delhi 1961 and the merger of the International Mission Council (IMC) with the WCC, resulting in the establishment of the CWME. The Norwegian Mission Council (NMC), as probably the only council, decided not to join the CWME. This decision has since then coloured the view of the conciliar movement among mission organizations, free churches, and evangelicals. At the same time, some of the Norwegian churches, and particularly the Church of Norway, have been active members of WCC and CWME while most of the organizations and churches have formed a Norwegian Council for Mission and Evangelism (NORME) with the Lausanne Covenant (1974) as their basis. This issue and the divergent views on the conciliar and evangelical movements have again come to the fore in the debate about the new mission document, and particularly so because Dr Keum in his lectures in Oslo and Stavanger called for a review of the 1961 decision: "Dear sisters and brothers in the Norwegian Council for Mission and Evangelism, shall we journey together again?"

We shall in the following summarize and analyze the Norwegian reflections on Together Towards Life. Secondly, we shall look at the Norwegian context and situation in regard to engagement in the CWME. In the conclusion we shall run the risk of giving our response to Dr Keum's invitation.

Even though this article aims at describing Norwegian reflections on the document, it is important to note that the authors and their views do not officially represent any of the Norwegian agencies or churches.

Summary and analysis of reflections

Here are some of the views expressed in the Norwegian conversation:

Ecumenism and mission belong together

The heartbeat of the church is mission. The church exists by mission, and if the church does not engage in mission, it ceases to be church. Mission must be ecumenical since the focus of both mission and ecumenism is to cross borders. Both of them are about meeting people with respect and tolerance. Ecumenism does not aim at making churches alike, but at making them belong together in diversity and respect. Both ecumenism and mission are about people meeting each other and about the church encountering people of different faiths, different ideologies, and different convictions. As we share the good news of Jesus Christ and invite people of other faiths to discipleship, we are challenged to learn dialogue and respect from ecumenism. Both ecumenism and mission are about listening to others and being challenged by others.

The Holy Spirit and mission

The emphasis on the Holy Spirit is what makes the new document exciting. This is a novel perspective among Protestants and Lutherans. But this emphasis implies by the same token a major challenge: How do we discern what the work of the Spirit is? The document says that the Spirit is at work in mysterious ways that we cannot comprehend or grasp. This opens the door for the Spirit being at work in other living faiths, in politics, and in economics; and also nature and creation, which await God's redemption and release, become arenas for the Spirit at work. What is God doing right now? Is the Spirit at work in our hospitals and our families? These questions are new in our context. Could the document play a role in two ways: first, by paving the way for impulses from charismatic congregations and Orthodox theology to churches that have an anaemic theology of the Holy Spirit; and, second, by connecting the Spirit with the wide cosmos and thus making individualism a false option. …

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