Magazine article International Bulletin of Mission Research

2010boston: The Changing Contours of World Mission and Christianity

Magazine article International Bulletin of Mission Research

2010boston: The Changing Contours of World Mission and Christianity

Article excerpt

Planners designed the theme of 2010Boston--"The Changing Contours of World Mission and Christianity"--to reflect the student and academic character of its setting. The stated goal of the conference was "to discern a vision for what might constitute mission in the twenty-first century." It is a mission that "stands in the trajectory of Christian witness from the earliest days of the church and is inclusive of matters relating to human flourishing, reconciliation, faith in the future, and conducive of religious liberty." Together these four priorities have been called the Antioch Agenda, which reappropriates priorities of the apostolic church for the coming age. (1)

Planning for 2010Boston began two years earlier at a meeting of the faculty in international mission and ecumenism from the Boston Theological Institute. BTI, an association of nine theological schools in the Greater Boston area, is one of the oldest and largest theological consortia in the United States. It is the only one that includes as constituent members schools representing the full range of Christian confessions. Rodney Petersen, executive director of BTI, and Todd Johnson, director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, served as cochairs of 2010Boston. (2) Boston University hosted an important meeting in November 2008 of the organizers of the four major centennial celebrations of Edinburgh 1910 (Tokyo 2010, Edinburgh 2010, Cape Town 2010, and 2010Boston). Together, they compared notes and pledged to cooperate in these initiatives.

BTI hosted the 2010Boston conference in association with the American Academy of Religion New England/Maritimes Region (NEMAAR), the American Society of Missiology-Eastern Fellowship of Professors of Mission, the Overseas Ministries Study Center (New Haven, Connecticut), and the Massachusetts Council of Churches. To it were invited seminary students and faculty from all over the world, but particularly those based in the schools of theology and university divinity schools of the Greater Boston area. Unlike the 2010 centennial celebrations in Tokyo and Edinburgh, attendees came as individual participants rather than as representatives of participating organizations. A total of 264 persons registered for 2010Boston. More than half were students, coming from the schools of BTI and from Fuller, Luther in Minneapolis, Palmer, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest, Yale, and Canadian seminaries. Other registrants included BTI faculty members, clergy, and mission practitioners from over twenty different countries, as well as more than a dozen U.S. states. (3)

At Boston, Ian Douglas, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut, sought to draw a sharp distinction between the Tokyo and Cape Town conferences, which he called "evangelical," and the Edinburgh and Boston conferences, which he labeled as "dominantly conciliar Protestant, with some Roman Catholic and Orthodox participation." I disagree. All four conferences had significant evangelical participation and expressed evangelical concerns.

Representative of the prevailing ethos of 2010Boston were the two opening presentations at historic Park Street Church. The conference's attention to a holistic approach mission began as John Chung, Park Street Church's minister of missions, told of this evangelical church's decision to award $200,000 in grants from its endowment to winners of a "Social Change Competition." The expressed purpose was to motivate students "to help change the world--to engage with that world, to not only care about the world but to be creative in combining their faith in Christ with concerns for social change." (4) In the conference's first keynote lecture, "Boston, Students, and Missions from 1810 to 2010," Dana Robert emphasized "the importance of student leadership in mission," citing several Boston case studies and concluding that in 2010 "students remain at the cutting edge of the challenge to transform the world in this generation. …

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