Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Changing World, Changing Church: Stephen Bayne and "Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence"

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Changing World, Changing Church: Stephen Bayne and "Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence"

Article excerpt

Following the Second World War, the Anglican Communion confronted a changing world, marked by a shift of power away from the historically preeminent churches, challenges to historic approaches to mission, and a global ecumenical movement. At the 1963 Anglican Congress, the Communion responded with "Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ," a dramatic call for a new pattern of Anglicanism. The person at the center of this change was Stephen Bayne, an American bishop serving as the first Anglican Executive Officer. Bayne crafted a missiology that was both practical and contextual, stressing personal relationships over ecclesial bureaucracy, emphasizing a new model of mission in which all gave and received, and showing how a strengthened Anglican identity could strengthen ecumenism. As the Anglican Communion again faces a challenging world, Stephen Bayne and MRI are important reminders of how the church has confronted change in the past.

Before the Second World War, the Anglican Communion was a loose affiliation of churches around the world, linked by a common tie to the Archbishop of Canterbury, a once-a-decade Lambeth Conference of bishops, a single Congress for lay people and priests in 1908, and nebulous appeals to the authority of a common prayer book and episcopate. But the world began to change rapidly following the end of the war - former colonies became independent countries, technological advances came with startling rapidity, the world's population grew quickly, and theologians began to grapple with the massive death and destruction of the war and the rise of a militantìy atheistic superpower - and the Anglican Communion was buffeted by and swept up in these momentous changes. The Communion responded by dramatically reinventing itself, culminating in "Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ," a manifesto approved by the 1963 Anglican Congress in Toronto that called for a new way of being Anglican in the world.

The person at the forefront of this change was an American bishop, Stephen Fielding Bayne, Jr., who was named the first Executive Officer of the Anglican Communion in 1959. Bayne was working in a particular context that was marked by a shift in power from the historically preeminent Church of England to the rapidly growing churches in the former colonies; challenges to the traditional definition of mission as a gift from the "older" churches to the "younger" churches overseen by individual mission agencies; and a growing global ecumenical movement that raised serious questions about Anglican identity, structures, and organization. In response, Bayne was instrumental in crafting a missiology that provided a new foundation for the Anglican Communion. His view of mission stressed personal relationships over ecclesial bureaucracy, emphasized that everyone gives and receives in mission, and that mission is from God and not the church. Bayne's missiology also demonstrated how a stronger Anglican identity could strengthen the ecumenical movement. At a time of global ferment, Stephen Bayne thus played a critical role in developing a missiology that was practical and contextual in that it responded to the unique set of circumstances that characterized the time in which he lived. Though it eventually faded in significance, MRI was a major document that embodied "an extensive and . . . painful yet hopeful program of renewal" for the church.1 Now, in a time of renewed ferment in the Anglican Communion, a close study of the particular theology developed by Stephen Bayne and the legacy of MRI is important, so that we may remember - and learn from - how the church has confronted change in the past.

Changing World, Changing Church

At the height of the British Empire, colonial missionaries, both British and American, had controlled overseas missions and churches, creating the impression - and fact - that "native Churches were in 'leading strings' firmly under the direction of their missionary nannies. …

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