Mission - Commissions - IASCOME

IASCOME - Travelling Together in God’s Mission

Some Areas of Concern and Continuing Work

Sub Sections

In the course of our work and the reports we have received from across the Communion we have identified a number of mission issues on which we have begun to reflect. We list them below as an interim summary comment on what we hope to include in our final report. The sections contain a number of recommendations.

  1. Islam and Islamisation

    In our review of the relations with people of other faiths, the issue of relations with Muslims was the most widely expressed concern. We heard from the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Tanzania and in particular Nigeria and Sudan of how Christians experienced their relations with the Muslim community and in particular the effects of growing Muslim presence and Islamisation, often funded from Saudi Arabia, Libya or Iran. The events of September 11 and evidence of international networks of radical Islamist groups, often with strong political, economic and violent agendas, has changed the scene very significantly.

    We recognised that the situation is complex and contexts vary greatly. For example in the West where Islamic communities are in a minority the situation is very different from parts of the Middle East where the Church is very small and often overlooked. Situations in Africa where Christianity and Islam often seem to be in competition significantly differ, for example, from Pakistan and South East Asia, where Christian communities are much smaller than Churches in Nigeria and Sudan.

    Care needs to be taken to consider each situation on its own terms rather than generalising or drawing universal principles from very particular experiences.

    We heard that examples of the practical expression of Islamisation included the increased building of mosques, social and economic institutions and the restriction of construction of churches; discrimination against Christians in employment and in legal cases, the forced marriage of Christian girls by Muslims. There was particular tension for Christian communities in situations where Shariah law has been imposed. There was also reference to political radical Islamist movements and expressions among them of desire for domination of the Christian world – particularly in Africa.

    At the 1998 Lambeth Conference the first guideline recommended by the Bishops on the approach of Christians to relations with people of other faiths was:

    Commitment to working towards genuinely open and loving human relationships even in situations where co-existence seems impossible.

    We have heard of situations in which the possibilities of dialogue (a word with which those in such situations found increasing difficulty) were severely constrained by the nature of the Muslim presence. Dialogues at the national or international level, important and welcome as they are, seemed often to have little effect at grassroots level.

    We give two examples.

    Nigeria The process of Islamisation has continued since we last met with more states declaring Shariah law. Churches have been burnt and people killed. The introduction of Shariah law is evidence of an on-going process of Islamisation in spite of repeated calls for dialogue, tolerance and peaceful co-existence.

    Sudan The question of Islam and Islamisation in the Sudan has been a serious concern to Sudanese Christians for over four decades ever since Sudanese independence.

    It is believed that there is a deliberate effort to Islamise and Arabise Sudan. This is seen in the consistent trends undertaken by successive Sudanese government policies of Islamisation and Arabicisation of the Sudanese populace at all costs. Islamic schools and Islamic Universities have been set up. Arabic is enforced as the official language of the country, and there is a comprehensive programme of what is known as Islamic orientation. The whole educational curriculum for the Sudan has been Islamised. The media especially radio and TV are used as tools of Islamisation. The country has been declared an ‘Islamic country’ with Arabic as the official language. Sharia Islamia (Islamic Law) has been introduced and the whole constitution of the Sudan is Islamic in complete disregard of the non-Muslims in the Sudan.

    As if all these were not enough, Islam has taken a prominent and almost central place in the civil war that has lasted over four decades in the Sudan. ‘Jihad’ has been invoked by Islamic leaders as a way of perpetuating the cause of Islam in the Sudan.

    This leaves the Sudanese Christians with very limited or no options for dialogue. Sudanese Christians see Islam as being used by the government as a threat. They feel a very high sense of persecution. Is there a way for others to share their pain and agony?

    Recommendations

    In responding to such situations IASCOME recommends:
    • that the priority of appropriate witness and service among Muslims be raised to a higher place on the Primates’ and ACC agendas.
    • that there be gatherings of people living in situations of Muslim presence to share accounts of Christian living and witness for encouragement and learning. We heard with appreciation that one such gathering sponsored by USPG and CMS had already been held, but we recommend others to be planned in which the active participation of women and men; lay people and clergy alongside bishops be ensured.
    • that particular attention be paid to ensuring children are included in gatherings and their voice and their hopes are heard.
    • that there be such a gathering specifically for those living under Shariah law.
    • that we recognised there needs to be action on many fronts, for example the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Al-Azhar initiative is to be greatly welcomed. We encourage all such initiatives at all levels.
    • that out of the gatherings clear guidelines be prepared on how to respond to Islamisation in a Christian way.
    • that the cry and pain of those Christians and Churches suffering or under pressure in the face of Islamisation be acknowledged with great sensitivity and understanding.
    The Commission discussed and warmly welcomed the report of the ‘Agreement for dialogue between the Anglican Communion and al-Azhar al-Sharif’. It placed on record its warm support for the initiatives taken, the visits made and the commitment given by the present Archbishop of Canterbury in developing relations with leaders of Muslim communities in many parts of the world.
  2. Developing Anglicanism: A Communion in Mission

    The Anglican Communion has grown out of the vision for world mission. The Decade of Evangelism highlighted this founding perspective and encouraged Churches of the Communion to explore what this might mean for a new era. Today we see signs of many different kinds of mission in the Communion leading to growth and developments in terms of both the size and nature of Anglicanism.

    One way of expressing this emerging perspective is to say that we are a family of Churches who find their Communion in Mission. Within this Communion we find structures which express our unity, marks which identify our mission, and relationships which create our fellowship. We are a Communion in Mission in so far as our identifiable mission is relational and our structures serve those mission relationships.

    As a Communion in Mission, being led forward by the Holy Spirit, we acknowledge (with other sister Churches) that we are God’s pilgrim people, and therefore whilst affirming the patterns and traditions of our past we realise that these are provisional and that our Communion is developing as it is being transformed in Christ.

    Indicators of Mission

    The various issues addressed in this report can also be seen as indicators of mission. We have identified a number of these:
    1. The missio Dei, the mission of God, is grounded in the Trinitarian affirmation of a Communion in Mission (see above). One way of understanding the mission of God, in which the church is called to participate, “is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ”.
    2. The Church finds its vocation as it expresses and serves a restored, reconciled and redeemed creation.
    3. The new creation brought forth by the mission of God embodies wholeness and life abundant in the pains and possibilities of our daily experiences.
    4. A Communion in Mission is characterised at one and the same time by a celebration of commonality and difference. Our commonality and difference is sustained by apostolic truth and the promise of the unity of all things in the worship of God.
    5. The evangelistic imperative draws the Church into a movement to both proclaim and live out a restored, reconciled and redeemed new creation.
    These indicators of mission challenge us to see Anglican identity as developing historically over time through an engagement with a variety of contexts. The variety of contexts push us to give priority to relationships as fundamental to a Communion in Mission.

    The Quality of Mission Relationships

    A Communion in Mission is characterised by the quality of its relationships engendered by God’s own relational life in mission (koinonia). These characteristics include:
    • interdependence
    • integrity
    • honesty
    • transparency
    • laughter
    • acceptance
    • openness
    • vulnerability
    • sharing
    • brokenness
    • compassion
    • solidarity in pain
    • Structures of Communion
    • The structures of the Communion in Mission express God’s mission when they:
    • seek to serve and not to be served
    • offer effective leadership
    • nurture relationships
    • effect reconciliation, freedom, justice and peace
    • are alive and moving
    • are flexible, available and accessible
    Recommendations

    ACC-12 is asked to affirm IASCOME’s concern to give priority to the development of and reflection about Anglicanism as a Communion in Mission.
    And specifically to:
    • support ventures in the Church that serve relationships in mission, e.g. the Anglican Gathering and the emergence of new networks;
    • lift up and celebrate the stories of mission relationships across the Communion;
    • live more deeply into the local-global nature of the Anglican Communion today;
    • address questions of authority and truth in relation to the life of the Church as a Communion in Mission
    • the Commission recognises that there is still further work to do on new ways of being Church and new forms of evangelism.
  3. The Journey towards Wholeness and Fullness of Life

    Listening to reports from many parts of the world we are aware of so many serious threats to life – not just of individuals, communities and nations, but also to the life of the planet. For example we heard accounts of :

    The unfolding consequences of the HIV/AIDS pandemic on families and, in particular, children across sub Saharan Africa.

    The traumatic effects of exploitation of children, child soldiers, internal displacement of families and child abuse in countries like Sri Lanka and parts of Africa on the emotional growth and social development of children from whom leaders of the future are likely to emerge.

    The effects of environmental degradation in situations of war and conflict, for example in the Sudan, has brought about desertification caused by the cutting down of trees and the effects of the oil industry.

    The internal displacement of millions of people in the Sudan and many more becoming refugees outside the country divides families and deprives children of education and development of skills for the future quite apart from the emotional impact upon them.

    War between nations and within countries (for example the thirty-six year war in the Sudan, conflict in Sri Lanka, Democtratic Republic of the Congo, Israel/Palestine) has lasting physical and emotional effects on those involved and tear the social fabric of civil society apart.
    Poverty in many areas has a crippling effect.

    Slavery and terrible physical abuse of captives in war situations, forming part payment for unpaid government troops.

    In northern nations where material wealth might be greater than in other parts of the world there are many areas of poverty and the effects of dysfunctional families and relationships, the pressures and stress of life can all prove wounding and death dealing.

    So many of the tragic situations in the world today are evidences of the work of forces of death and destruction that contradict the desire of God expressed in Jesus’ words that ‘all people should have life, life in all its fullness’ (John 10:10).

    It is the Christian witness that God is a God of Life expressed in the working of God’s Spirit throughout the created universe to bring life and to counteract the forces of death. The universal life-giving work of God’s Spirit is focused in human form in the person of Jesus – ‘In the beginning was the Word … in him was life, and the life was the light of all people….the Word became flesh and lived among us’ (John 1:1-14). Jesus is described as ‘the Bread of Life’; ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life’; ‘the Water of Life’. Through his death on the Cross he entered into the pain and evil of the world, taking on the forces of death and destruction and rising after they had done their worst into a new resurrection life.

    The Bible speaks of the Spirit of Jesus carrying on his ministry of bringing life and pressing all people to join in the journey into life which will culminate in the new heaven and new earth.

    Our response to the forces of death is to analyse causes, develop programmes to take action to prevent, provide alternatives and to heal, in other words to pursue Jesus’ Nazareth Manifesto (Luke 4:18-19). In this section we focus specifically on the call to heal, to make whole those wounded physically and emotionally as individuals and communities by the death dealing trends in the world. The prophet Isaiah speaks of God’s servant not breaking ‘the bruised reed’ and not quenching ‘the flickering flame’- but of binding up and healing wounds and helping all people on the journey to wholeness that is God’s calling and all people’s need.

    In relation to HIV/AIDS there is a ministry of care, counselling and support both for People living with AIDS and for their families and those who support them, both before and after their death – a ministry of support, accepting and holding.

    Destruction of the environment calls for a healing of the wounds inflicted on the earth.

    Communities that have suffered trauma and displacement need reconciliation and healing.

    The ministry of healing, which takes the form of prayer, the laying on of hands and anointing with oil, is frequently practised in some and being rediscovered in other parts of the Communion as a form of ministry to Christians and those outside the Christian faith alike.

    The healing of children who have suffered abuse and need emotional and social healing is a skilled and demanding work of love.

    Recommendations

    IASCOME therefore recommends:
    • that Liturgies for cleansing and healing in communities where terrible things have happened be researched and listed/collected for sharing more widely.
    • This should include liturgies for environmental healing.
    • Connection with representatives in provinces on liturgical committees or on the International Anglican Liturgical Consultation.
    • Liturgies from Anglican and other Church sources.
    • New liturgies for healing and the laying on of hands that are being developed in some parts of the Anglican Communion.
    • Any reports on healing produced within member Churches of the Communion.
    • Examples of the work of circles of prayer, healing and reconciliation.
    • that the ways in which the ministry of healing and reconciliation, including its psychological elements, are part of the theological and ministerial formation of Church and youth leadership be researched.
    • that some assessment be made of how the Church in each country plays its important role in the preparation of leaders for the future in the light of the huge threats posed by HIV/AIDS and the consequences of war to the present and next generation of leaders within many countries.
    • that stories be collected and shared (in an appropriate way) of the effects of the forces of death and of life-giving responses being made as the basis for analysis. People’s stories have proved so valuable in awakening awareness.
    ACC-12 is asked to affirm the Commission in undertaking these tasks and encouraging others to do so.
  4. Mission as Justice-Making and Peace-Building

    At both the first and second meetings of IASCOME, we listened to members describe the mission work of their various churches, and were struck by the powerful stories of committed Anglicans challenging injustices in their own contexts and also working to bring about peace and reconciliation in areas of conflict. In many parts of the Anglican Communion the mission focus of the church at this time is justice-making and peace-building in contexts of poverty, abuse of power and violence.

    We noted two types of violence, visible and spectacular violence against individuals and communities, and systemic, structural violence.

    These are characterised as follows:

    Visible and spectacular violence:
    Wars arising from ethnic, religious, political conflicts and from socio-cultural practices are funded through external sources and often fought using outside personnel.

    Domestic violence within the family.
    Violence against children, including child trafficking, child labour and child soldiers.

    Systemic and structural violence:
    • Poverty perpetuated by oppressive and exclusionary systems.
    • The abuse of power in and by both secular and religious institutions.
    • Globalised capitalism, including unethical biotechnology practices.
    • Based on the stories we heard, we make the following observations about how Christians in mission behave:
    • Christians in mission live out the values of the gospel: love, justice, peace and preferential option for the poor, powerless and weak. They respect and affirm the dignity of each person, looking for and honouring the Christ in each child of God.
    • Christians in mission affirm those structures and value systems that are life-giving, and seek to transform cultural practices that oppress, discriminate and are contrary to the gospel.
    • Christians in mission have a richness of spirit that leads them to repent, forgive, reconcile and restore.
    • Christians in mission are engaged in the political and economic life of the/their world in a non-partisan way. They challenge unjust structures and value systems in institutions, especially the church, in groupings in society such as tribes, clans and social movements, and in the economic and political systems at local, national and international levels of the world.
    • Christians in mission are prophetic risk-takers.
    • Christians in mission are actively involved in peace-making as part of building a safe world. They find ways to hold safe spaces where opposing forces can listen and talk to each other.
    We believe the imperatives for this behaviour are firmly grounded in the teaching of Scripture and the faith of the practitioners, which we heard articulated as follows:

    Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” His life is the example of how we are to love.
    Jesus said, “Love your enemies”. The challenge is to hold our enemies accountable in the hope of bringing change, without destroying them.

    All people are created in the image of God, irrespective of race, class, gender, age, sexual orientation.

    God continues to redeem humanity, and Christians in mission are called to be instruments of this redemption in their own cultures.

    IASCOME affirms the good work done by the Anglican Peace and Justice Network (APJN) and encourages provinces to support those in their midst engaged in the mission work of justice-making and peace-building.

    Recommendations

    To expand and strengthen this work, IASCOME makes the following recommendations:
    • that provinces examine their health and educational institutions to ensure that there are appropriate policies and monitoring mechanisms to protect the vulnerable, and as much as possible, to guarantee fair access to services.
    • that provinces examine their cultural practices, affirming those that liberate, and transforming those that contradict and deny the liberating message of the gospel.
    • that provinces, dioceses and parishes include in their various cycles of prayer, prayers for peace-makers and those involved in the work of reconciliation.
    • that provinces gather and submit to IASCOME resources being used in peace-building, so that these can be made available to assist in the training of peace-makers.
  5. Money, Power and Christian Mission

    During the course of our first two meetings, the members of IASCOME have listened to stories of the benefits which a healthy local economy, financially self-sufficient churches, and the compassionate exercise of power can bring to the furtherance of Christian mission. But we have also heard how poverty, financial dependency, and financial corruption coupled with the abuse of power can obstruct and distort God’s mission. Based on these stories, we make the following observations:

    Jesus came to offer abundant life to everyone (John 10:10). This means the material basis of life as well as the spiritual. The Good News has no credibility if people remain poor and powerless while the rich thrive.

    Love of God is false unless there is a genuine love of neighbour through mutual respect and service. We are accountable to God for the gifts we have received and for the welfare of our neighbours (Matt. 25).

    Wealth is a gift from God requiring honesty, transparency and vigilance in financial management and accountability. Financial scandals tarnish the image of the church and diminish the credibility of the gospel.

    Power must be exercised in the service of the powerless, as exemplified by Jesus. Failure to follow Jesus’ example of empowering the powerless makes a mockery of the liberating message of the gospel.

    Those engaged in Christian mission need to include the following tasks in their work:
    Economic analysis. People need to be equipped to seek answers to their concerns about their local economic situations. This means paying attention to the economy at the global as well as the local level, since the two are so closely intertwined. Information and basic tools of analysis need to be provided so that people can make informed economic decisions.

    Sharing financial resources. Financial resources need to continue to be shared across the Communion, but capacity must also be built in wealth generation and financial management. The sharing of resources should be seen as a stepping stone to financial self-sufficiency. To this end, we need good ethical teaching in Christian stewardship that leads to accountability and tithing.

    Participation in civil society. People need help in becoming involved in civil society. This requires building dignity and self-confidence, and teaching organisational skills, as well as finding ways to both share power and exercise it in compassionate and responsible ways.

    Ethical financial behaviour. Christian values apply at all levels, local, and global. Financial corruption and mismanagement need to be challenged, as do unethical investment practices.
    It is important that Christians in mission challenge the abuse of power and financial corruption and mismanagement in the wider society. At the same time, these sins continue to be present within the church and need to be corrected.

    Recommendations

    IASCOME recommends:
    • that provinces examine their entire investment portfolios, including pension funds, to ensure that they meet the Global Reporting Initiative Standard (see Appendix X) (website http://www.globalreporting.org), especially in relation to the arms trade and the environment.
    • that provinces examine their governance structures to ensure transparency in decision-making processes and financial management.
    • that provinces seek ways to train creative administrators who are also strategic thinkers.
    • that provinces put in place measures to deal with corruption in the church at all levels, and make these measures known to the membership.
    • that each province affirm its commitment to the Anglican Communion by a renewed endeavour to fulfil its financial obligation to the Inter-Anglican Budget.
  6. Evangelism

    Evangelism has run as a theme through many of the Commission’s discussions and presentations, but a sustained reflection on evangelism across the Communion has been identified as a major piece of work for future Commission meetings. We look forward to continuing to encourage and support the significant efforts in evangelism that are emerging in the Communion.