[Codrington College, Barbados] In July 2002, the House of Bishops of the Church in the Province of the West Indies (CPWI) asked each diocese to pay greater attention to the area of mission, having identified engagement in mission as critical to the development of the Anglican Church in the province. Partly in response to this, the staff of Codrington College, the historic theological college in Barbados dedicated to preparing women and men from the dioceses of the Province of the West Indies for ordination and to offering a range of programmes and courses in theological subjects, organised a conference on the theme "Christian Mission in the 21st Century Caribbean," which was held in Barbados, 12-13 March 2003.
The conference was attended on both days by more than eighty people, including clergy and lay people from a wide range of Christian denominations, from Barbados and overseas (Antigua, The Bahamas, The Turks & Caicos Islands, Guyana, Jamaica, St Kitts, Trinidad & Tobago, the UK, the USA). Five papers were presented, followed by time for open discussion, concluding on Thursday afternoon with a general discussion and a vote of thanks led by the chairman of the Barbados Christian Council, the Revd Stephen Sandiford.
Canon Dr Noel Titus (Principal of Codrington College) spoke on "Battling Division: The Caribbean as the Context of Mission." Focusing on the anglophone Caribbean, Dr Titus surveyed the colonial history of the region, highlighting the 'culture of suspicion' that history has engendered, the divisions caused by the influx of immigrants since the abolition of slavery, and the geographical and political divisions resulting both from the colonial legacy and the contemporary interference of the United States. He also noted the issue of religious pluralism, the problem of persistent poverty, and the erosion of Caribbean cultures by outside influences. Dr Titus calls the churches to address several issues:
The Rt Revd Professor Stephen Sykes, Principal of St John's College, Durham, gave a general paper on mission, entitled "Power from on High: Mission and the Theology of the Church." He began talking of the five marks of mission outlined by the Anglican Consultative Council at Badagry, Nigeria, in 1984. In terms of the 'how' of mission, Professor Sykes offered a thought-provoking discussion on power. A correct understanding of power is necessary, since the term "power" has accumulated deeply negative connotations through its abuse by humans throughout history. Christian theology holds a nuanced and disciplined view of power, however, and rather than rejecting the idea of power we must undertake our mission in the power we receive from God (cf. Acts 1:8).
Dr James Harding, Lecturer in Old Testament Studies, Codrington College, offered "Reflections on the Bible and Mission for the Contemporary Caribbean." Dr Harding began by reflecting that a faithful reading of biblical texts must do justice both to their ancient roots and to the modern contexts in which they are to be interpreted. He offered examples of the problematic (mis-)interpretation of biblical texts (e.g. Matthew 28:19; Luke 14:23) during the colonial period, stressing the need to be aware of such interpretations when we use the Bible in the postcolonial Caribbean. He focused on the root meaning of "mission" as "a sending out" and drew on the biblical idea of the prophets, Jesus, and the apostles being "sent" - a key idea, especially in John's Gospel. The apostolic and prophetic Christian mission should draw on John 10:10 and Luke 4:18-19 and focus on helping all people to live to the fullness of their potential and on critiquing and removing injustice, in its many forms, in the tradition of Israel's prophets.
The Very Revd Dr Titus Presler, Dean and President of the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest, gave an engaging presentation, interspersed with a rousing rendition of verses from 'Amazing Grace' that was rooted in his mission experience in Zimbabwe. The title was "Companion's in God's Mission: The Church's Global Engagement in a New Century." Dr Presler emphasised that global engagement is central to our identity as Christians, and focused on companionship as the central paradigm for mission. "Companionship emphasises listening to one another and opening ourselves to discovering Christ and the gospel anew in the experience of our fellow pilgrims; offers our churches the opportunity to recover an emphasis on persons rather than finance and programs; and stresses solidarity rather than the solving of problems," he said. "The incarnational church is to be a witness, a pilgrim, a servant, a prophet, hospitable, and a sacrament: God is calling us to be outward and visible signs of his love, justice, and transformation."
The final paper, by Dr Judith Soares (Tutor/Coordinator, Women and Development Unit, School of Continuing Studies, The University of the West Indies, Barbados) was entitled "Gender and the Christian Mission" and was a provocative and challenging examination of the problems of male dominance and the use of masculine language and concepts by the churches, from the perspective of a Caribbean academic who can associate with the marginalised on several levels, as a black woman from the developing world.
The papers and discussions highlighted a number of issues that Christians in the region urgently need to address. In particular: