Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Toward the Fullness of Life: Intercontextual Relationships in Mission

Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Toward the Fullness of Life: Intercontextual Relationships in Mission

Article excerpt

A title of this magnitude needs some exegesis! Since I was not involved in the preparation for this meeting, I have no idea of the difficult discussions that must have taken place to arrive at this formulation, or the reasons for choosing this theme. Consequently, I am free to inject my own ideas without let or hindrance!! These ideas have their genesis in my work as an Asian theologian who constantly has had to deal with the issue of plurality in its many forms. These ideas have also been shaped in my work with the ecumenical movement and more recently as general secretary of the Council for World Mission. I make no apology, but alert you to the way that I am approaching the challenge of and for world mission today.

The main title, "Toward the Fullness of Life", is the goal of the mission of the church. Perhaps it is better to take it as the vision that calls for our missionary engagement. I say vision, because a vision is what draws us forward but is never completely realized by us. Yet, we strive to realize it, caught in the "yet" and the "not yet" of the promise of God's reign/realm. This sense of movement or striving is implied in the word "toward".

The sub-theme, "Intercontextual relationships in mission", is not really a commentary on the main title, but is rather a statement of method. No longer is the mission of the church to be seen as uni-directional, from the North to the South or from the West to the East, but as from everywhere to everywhere. In the context of a new missionary situation, when world mission replaced the missionary era, the Council for World Mission was moved to state in its founding document, Sharing in One World Mission (1975), that we engage in mission not because we have all the answers and all the required skills but because we belong to the body of Christ. We are all seekers. Therefore we need each other, so that we may learn from each other. (1) Contexts are neither wholly discrete nor are they self-sufficient. In brief, in seeking to understand and respond to the goal or vision of fullness of life for all, we need several contextual responses, as each responds in terms of what is specific to its context and yet speaks to a ll contexts. Mutuality not moratorium is what constitutes the character of the gospel and is at the core of mission. Nevertheless, for some time some measure of moratorium has been necessary to prevent an indiscriminate merging of contexts, and the accompanying giving of so-called universal answers that may be applied to all situations. Intercontextuality seeks to balance independence with interdependence.

The work for this consultation is divided into three parts: identity and plurality; healing, health and faith communities, new models of mission relationships (partnership). These are three of the principal challenges for mission engagement. Each challenge raises in its own way a missionary response to the denial of the fullness of life in a particular area. While each challenge has to be faced in terms of the specific issues each raises, the three are also interconnected. Let me explain briefly.

I world, agree with the political, scientist, Samuel Huntington that the issue of identity and plurality has to be approached today against a prevailing attitude that he calls, "a clash of civilizations". Though on the surface it may seem unrelated to the issue of identity and plurality, HIV/AIDS, which presents sharply for our time the crisis in health and healing, raises the question of identity and plurality. Are those who suffer from HIV/AIDS to be classed as sinners who pay the price of licentiousness? This is not a theoretical question, but in many ways reflects the official attitude of many churches. If it is the consequence of sin, what is the identity of those living with HIV/AIDS as human beings? Where do they belong in healing communities? Though the issue of identity and plurality appears here in a different way from that posed by the paradigm of "the clash of civilizations", the issue as it is posed in this area of challenge needs to be related to the other two areas of challenge. …

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