Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Mission - through the Eyes of Harare

Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Mission - through the Eyes of Harare

Article excerpt

Introduction

The Eighth Assembly of the World Council of Churches provided a unique occasion for the global ecumenical community to reflect and deliberate on the context, content, process and direction of the church's mission for the new millennium. This article is a modest attempt to perceive and understand the various aspects of mission through the eyes of the Harare assembly. The following broad framework has been used:

- a review and analysis of the assembly process from the mission perspective, and

- an examination of the major challenges that emerged from Harare which demand prompt ecumenical action in the area of mission.

A REVIEW AND ANALYSIS OF THE ASSEMBLY PROCESS

The Eighth Assembly

The Harare assembly was unique in many ways. It was one of the largest and most representative ecumenical gatherings, bringing together more than five thousand participants from all the constituencies of the oikoumene. It was an assembly called together to celebrate the golden jubilee of the ecumenical movement initiated through WCC. The assembly was unique in that it celebrated the end of the Ecumenical Decade of the Churches in Solidarity with Women. A well-organized pre-assembly youth event that forcefully endorsed the urgent necessity of significant participation of the youth in the life of the church as well as in the ecumenical movement was another element which added to the uniqueness. Also, it was the last assembly of the present millennium. The assembly provided the WCC the occasion to deliberate on its own mission and sharpen its goals and purposes through the well thought out and discussed documents on the Common Understanding and Vision. This may have been the assembly that ensured maximum participation from maximum participants by virtue of the diversified format which included worship, small group Bible studies, plenaries, hearings, the Padare, visitor programmes and inputs from pre-assembly meetings of youth and women.

Mission theme and theme plenaries

Mission is an overarching concept with unlimited scope. Everything that the church is, does or becomes comes within the scope of her mission. The attempt to place the assembly within the historical process of the ecumenical journey was done through the application of the three-fold paradigm of memory, praxis and vision. We observe that the journey of the faithful is continuous and progressive. This approach has a process perspective which integrates the past, the present and the future into a dynamic whole. The past is actively present in the present, influencing and affecting the future. Accordingly, if we were to elaborate on the Harare theme it would say 'Remember the acts of God's mercy in the past; turn to God in committed action and witness in the present; and enter into the new millennium affirming and rejoicing in our faith in hope for the future promised by our God of the past, the present, and the future.' Theologically the journey of faith becomes our life involvement in the missio Dei.

In the main plenary on the assembly's theme, memory, praxis and vision found their parallels in the corresponding concepts of anamnesis, metanoia, and hope, presented by the three main speakers. Ecumenical pilgrimage receives its momentum from the remembrance of events in the life of the faithful. Archbishop Anastasios put it this way:

This entire series of remembrances finally leads to the fundamental Anamnesis which defines our Christian identity: The remembrance of the amazing intervention of God in the life of humanity. The remembrance, in faith and dedication, of the economy of God in Christ through the Holy Spirit determines our self-consciousness. It is from that that all other things begin and draw their meaning.(1)

The Archbishop shared an example from his experience.

Some years ago I was in a magnificent cathedral of an Eastern European town, just returned to the Church after the persecution. …

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