Acts 6.7a – ‘The word of God continued to spread’
The Evangelism & Church Growth Initiative Newsletter
The narrative in the opening chapters of Genesis tells of relationships breaking down between: God and people; people and themselves; people and other people; different communities; people and creation. The rest of the bible is the story of God taking the initiative to reconcile these relationships. In particular God works in reconciliation through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and then through those who follow Jesus Christ. Evangelism is about reconciling people with Christ, so it is not surprising that there is a strong link between evangelism and reconciliation. This edition includes articles and stories from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Burundi and Canada that reflect the link between evangelism and reconciliation. There is also a story about making disciples within the family in Argentina and stories about initiatives with young people. The story from Brazil about young people reflects not only the excitement and hope when young Anglicans embrace difference; both the joy experienced when Anglicans from different parts of the world come together but also when they join in activities with another denomination.
If the Church is not a place both of conflict and of reconciliation it is not merely hindering its mission and evangelism, appalling as such hindrance is, but it is a failing or failed church. It has ceased to be the miracle of diversity-in-unity, of the grace of God breaking down walls. We must be reconciled reconcilers. When that happens we are unbelievably attractive, distinctively prophetic, not because we all agree, but because we disagree with passion in love, and set the bar high for the world around. And then reach out and help people over the bar.
So often we seek like-mindedness so that we can get on with the job of worship, of making disciples, of serving other human beings. Because conflict in the church feels time-consuming and destructive, we turn from facing it and instead seek those with whom we agree.
In Indiana there is a town called New Harmony. It is the rebuilt Harmony, which fell into disrepair when the original Harmonists fell out and left. It depicts the spirit of much Christianity: make a new frontier when things don’t work out with everyone, move on with those who agree. History tells this story again and again. Conflict arises from the diversity in which we have been created.
Because by the grace of God we are defined as family with a call to action in reconciliation, then we have to find not only the call but also the means of being reconcilers, when our instincts and passions often lead us in the opposite direction. Circling the wagons and self-defining ourselves as those who are of one mind against the rest of the world has a noble feeling. Hollywood inspired, it gives us the feeling that this is a good day to die hard - hard of heart and hard in action. By contrast the process of reconciliation seems weak and unprincipled, alienating us from everyone involved in quarrel.
I find myself often doubting myself deeply: have I become totally woolly, taken in by the niceness of bad people or bad theology, trapped in an endless quest for illusory peace rather than tough answers? That is a question that all involved in reconciliation might be asked, and to which they should be held accountable. But it is also part of the process. Reconciliation is painful. Its grace is something that is squeezed out of our mixed motives.
A church with which I worked had come near to absolute division. The challenge was to find a means of speaking truth safely to each other. The vicar and those who opposed him were in many cases truly heroic in being willing to listen and willing to change. They saw the distress of the other, recognised the call of God and the demands of grace, and responded. But that process was neither quick nor universal. Grace crept into the cracks of the church and began to heal them. The space for grace was opened by their own knowledge of the love of God.
The complexities of the grace of reconciliation are experienced not only in our inner resistance and desire to circle the wagons, but also in grace having to be expressed as we journey. The church is called to express reconciliation on the road together, in common journeying, to set a context in the journey.
Accepting we belong to God together because of His action, determined to express the common gift of grace and the universal goodness of what we have received, we journey together with much difficulty. We are many tribes, but one people. For that to have any possibility of success the journeying must be in truth, responding to the Spirit of God in us calling to the Spirit of God in each other. For such journeying we must speak to each other. Silence is not peace.
The possibilities open to a church of reconciled reconcilers are more than we can imagine. Reconciliation touches every aspect of our lives and society, and every aspect of our creation and living in our world. We can be reconcilers of the environment and natural order, of families and communities, of economies and financial services, of families and nations. We will weather the issues of politics and flourish in the storms of societal change.
If we can name and listen, be in conflict but not destruction, we can establish a pattern and a model of trust-filled living, drawing on the grace of God: a model that changes the world. Captured by the grace of God the church has done it before, many times. If the Church is not a place both of conflict and of reconciliation, it is not merely hindering its mission and evangelism, appalling as such hindrance is, but it is a failing or failed church. It has ceased to be the miracle of diversity-in-unity, of the grace of God breaking down walls. We must be reconciled reconcilers.
The full text of this talk, delivered by Archbishop Justin Welby at the ‘Faith in Conflict Conference’ at Coventry cathedral on 28 February 2013, can be found at http://www.coventrycathedral.org.uk/whats-on/sermons-talks-and-resources/other-sermons-and-talks.php
One of the fruits of our faith should be reconciliation. The word reconciliation has been used many times in churches and in political speeches and many conferences and workshops have been run in Burundi. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission is about to be put in place and prayers are needed because many fear that the Commission will again bring about ethnic divisions, as were experienced some years ago when many people died. However, we are confident as believers that the Lord, who sustained us during those difficult times, is still our Lord; many people have received and believed in Him, and got a right to become children of God, as John mentions in John 1:12. Those children of God (Christians) have been reconciled to God and also reconciled to themselves as well. They are living testimonies, who stand in times of trouble and show their love, peace and joy as former enemies hug each other and even sacrifice their lives in some circumstances; this is the true reconciliation.
During the difficult times when, because of the ethnic differences, many people were killed by their neighbours, one evangelist stood as a child of God. He told the people of his ethnic group, not to kill their neighbours, but they refused and threatened to kill him as well. Taking courage he risked his life and went to see his friend, another evangelist from the other ethnic group, who lived 15 minutes walk away. Arriving there, he found people dead and the only survivor was the daughter of his friend who was who seriously wounded and had been left to die. He took her to his home and started treating her as his own child. Some weeks later, people came for revenge. Everybody else from his community had already fled and they just found him and his friend’s daughter. They were ready to kill him, but asked him why he had stayed when his people, who had killed many people, had fled. He replied that he was a child of God, and prepared to sacrifice his own life for the sake of his brother in Christ’s daughter; an innocent girl, who needed his help and love so that she could gain hope and life again, even though her father and sister had been killed. Astonished by his faith, in the face of his imminent death, they said they had really seen a Christian, and if we had other Christians like him then many lives would have been saved! His act of reconciliation involved sacrificial risks but continues to bring people to faith in Christ.
There are important lessons to learn from this story:
It is these that lead to true reconciliation being observed, so believers need to stand in ‘the gaps’ and show the true reconciliation and continue preaching the word of God. Amen!
Canon Seth Ndayirukiye, Burundi
Imagine that we are on the road to Jericho: Having journeyed too far in our friendship with the world, we reach toward consciousness, still in pain from a collapse that should have been expected, but seemed to sneak up on us. In the haze of this awakening, we see a face lingering above us - comforting us, caring for us - but the comfort becomes a confrontation when we realize that it is a Samaritan who has rescued us; a Samaritan was our true friend and companion on the way. We have not chosen reconciliation, it has chosen us.
In the last half century and more, the connection of evangelism to reconciliation has been blurred by the almost exclusive correlation of evangelism with 1) adoption of a particular set of beliefs and 2) affiliation with a church. As important as these are, the integral connection between evangelism and a broader horizon of reconciliation has been obscured. Reconciliation beyond the individual’s relationship with God, when considered at all, has been referred to as subsequent and later moral enrichment.
In the Gospels, however, encounters with Jesus - the essential paradigm of all evangelism - are attended by reconciliation, both to God and to neighbour. We see this evangelistic reconciliation in those who receive physical healing, as is true of blind Bartimaeus and the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years. Elsewhere, when Jesus meets those who are participants in systems that oppress others, reconciliation is an especially prominent feature, as with Matthew and Zacchaeus. The consistency of this pattern makes it clear that reconciliation belongs with evangelism in the way that compassion belongs with love.
It should not, therefore, be surprising that evangelism suffers when church institutions are complicit with evil. This seems specifically related to the intimate connection between evangelism and reconciliation. When those Paul designates “ambassadors” of reconciliation don’t embody reconciliation, it is difficult for the church to give a comprehensive expression of its evangelistic mandate. Evangelism, in this situation, can only become either coercion or a rather feeble form of marketing.
As Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission examines the complicity of the churches in the culture destroying Indian Residential Schools, the connection of evangelism to reconciliation has become an urgent question. Though many church-related individuals were kind and just in their individual treatment of students at the schools, church institutions played an animating role in a system that denied the basic principles of Christ and damaged generations of Indigenous People. The death rate at the schools – often between 30 and 50 percent of the students, especially in the early years - and the resulting mayhem of the oppressive regime of the schools is still painfully tangible among Indigenous Peoples and remains a major indictment of the churches.
Missiologist Robert Schreiter insists that reconciliation always begins with the victim claiming their humanity, not when the oppressor realizes their wrongdoing. Our observations and experience in Canada would confirm this. Though the churches involved with the Residential Schools have made significant efforts towards acknowledging their wrong, it was in response to Indigenous demands. Further, the consideration of the issue still receives opposition or, more often, indifference from many church members.
But, precisely at this point, should we not hope for more, even from oppressors and, especially, when those oppressors are tasked with proclaiming and embodying the Gospel of Reconciliation? Should it not be that a church’s wrestling with its own need for reconciliation can lead to a renewed capacity for evangelism? If there is this connection between evangelism and reconciliation, reconciliation can become a key component of the evangelistic enterprise. We might even suggest, given this connection, that reconciliation turns our understanding of the evangelistic enterprise upside down.
As we noted above, reconciliation is particularly significant in the evangelistic encounter of those who are participants in systems that oppress others. These Gospel encounters could be a model for churches seeking to understand the truth of their own participation in evil. In the case of the church, those whose lives or words confront the would-be evangelists with their wrong now become the doorway to true and real life. An encounter with the other – often hated or feared, sometimes invisible, always marginalized - demands that church institutions and members be converted. The church’s encounter with the other can be an encounter with Jesus. Through this, we may begin to see the borders to effective evangelism in a different way: the borders to evangelism do not exist on the side of those who we would evangelize, as we almost always assume; the borders to evangelism are in the hearts of the would-be evangelist.
Mark McDonald, National Indigenous Bishop, Canada
Christian discipleship is becoming a learner after the life of Jesus and his teaching. In Christian discipleship, Jesus Christ is the lesson; he teaches us how to worship God Almighty; how to walk in the ways of God, how to love God and his creation and also, he teaches us how to serve God and humankind. This discipleship sets up the foundation for all Christian training. Discipleship and training remain the fundamental transmission point of the Christian faith and life. This importance was under-scored by Jesus who began his ministry first, by calling his disciples and concluded by sending them to go and make disciples of all nations.
We broadly understand discipleship as the opportunity that people have to hear, learn and imitate Christ Jesus. And so for us at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Lusaka, we love seizing every opportunity that allows us to point people to Christ; because he is the centre of our existence. It is for this reason that we have, besides being the ‘mother church for the Diocese’, proudly taken on the role of being a national cathedral, since it's inauguration in 1967, where important city and national events are held. By facilitating and hosting these events, we draw people to experience and encounter Jesus Christ thereby providing an opportunity for them to be his disciples. We consider ourselves to be a cathedral with a threefold mission; a parish church, a diocesan mother church and a national cathedral.
As a parish church, we endeavour to disciple the faithful members who regularly worship at the cathedral. These are the Christians who are the priority of our discipleship ministry; we labour and live to train them in the way of our Lord Jesus. Through cell groups they form the support base of the cathedral ministry within and beyond.
As a mother church, our role and commitment is to enhance the ministry of the ‘See’ throughout the diocese; by leading and inspiring other parishes in fulfilling the bishopric ministry.
As a national cathedral, our mission is to be the beacon of hope in times of hopelessness and adversity, to be an expression of national unity and reconciliation; an altar of thanksgiving and celebration of God to our nation.
Striving to respond to the challenges and opportunities involves:
Fr Frank Hakoola - City Canon, Holy Cross Cathedral, Lusaka, Zambia
When faced with the question “How did you find faith in Christ Jesus?” 95% of the group of Wichi parents affirmed that it had been through their father, their mother, or their grandparents that they had found faith. The second question was linked to the first, “Well, are you sharing your faith with your children? Are you bringing them up to know and love Christ?” There was silence.
The world of the indigenous (Amerindian) cultures in Northern Argentina has been turned upside down over the recent years; the traditional values have been eroded by the encroachment of Western Society. Changes to what was a well established way of life have occurred in a relatively short space of time and a people whose way of life was based on hunting and gathering have suddenly, over the space of one generation, found themselves struggling to understand the world of their children, of mobile phones, the internet, satellite and TV etc.
Parents say that they feel that they have lost influence over their children; that schools and teachers (largely non Amerindian) have become the authority figures rather than the parents, grandparents and extended family. Many young people no longer respect their parents due to their “lack of learning “ and many parents express that they feel unable to guide their children whose world is so very different from their own.
Of course, many of these changes are essential to meeting basic human needs: clean water supply, electricity, access to medical care, and education, but with these changes so come many other challenges, opportunities, but also many dangers.
It is into this situation that the Anglican Church in Northern Argentina is speaking - a church which is well established, respected and over 100 years old - with a project called “Making Disciples in the Family”. We are seeking to do just that, to encourage parents to be less passive, to resist the powerful outside pressures and take responsibility for their own families; to be the parents that God intends them to be, to disciple their children and help them to achieve our chief end “to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”
In the words of Demostenes Toribio, a member of the Anglican Church and part of the project, “We have abdicated the responsibility for our children and given it to others - to school, to TV, government agencies etc. But we must adapt to the changes. Now there is money, electricity, computers, cars and motor bikes. We cannot resist, we have to change and know how to make the most of what we have today”
The project is now into its second year, and runs workshops in different areas of the diocese bringing together the minority ethnic groups, (Chorote, Chulupi, Toba and Wichi), to give them a forum in which to discuss and share views. The workshops are fundamentally aimed at supporting the mothers, fathers and grandparents in their key roles.
The project is having an impact on the indigenous communities that it reaches out to; there is evidence of a renewed focus on children, their welfare and place in the family church and society. Testimonies of parents who no longer beat their children, but who are trying to spend time with them, to talk and listen to them, to pray for them and who take seriously Ephesians 6.4 “Parents do not be hard on your children. Raise them properly. Teach them and instruct them about Lord.” (Contemporary English Version CEV)
Although the emphasis is on the home, we arealso seeing a resurgence of initiatives involving children outside of the home - Sunday Schools, family-inclusive church, women meeting together to pray for their families, and parenting groups. It is encouraging to see the people take ownership of this situation, and we pray that we can also identify key leaders who can take this work forward in culturally sensitive ways to encourage parents to be effective in their nurture and guidance of their children.
The great commission of Matthew 28.19 to “Go to the people of all nations and make them my disciples.....” is surely not only a command for those outside the family, but also for those within. This is one time when “discipleship begins at home!”
For more information please contact the project coordinator Catherine Le Tissier firstname.lastname@example.org or visit a recent power point for an example of the process http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKFEvrvI3ZE
Many may know of World Youth Day, an incredible international event for Catholic youth that occurs every three years—this year it took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and some 3 million young people were estimated to be in attendance. The only thing that was perhaps out of the ordinary is that at a few events, there was a small group of Anglican youth, as well. The Anglican World Youth Encounter, or in Portuguese, Encontro de Juventude Anglicana Mundial, as the page is known on Facebook, was the brainchild of the Rev Nicholas Wheeler and the Rev Daniel Cabral of the Anglican Diocese of Rio de Janeiro, Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil (IEAB). Many were invited, and in the end, a small but dynamic group of eight young people traveled from near and far to spend ten days at the end of July in Brazil: Beth Schreiner (Diocese of Ontario, Canada), Rev. Luke Hopkins (Diocese of Newcastle, Australia), Oliver Petter (Diocese of London, UK), Nina Boe (Diocese of Olympia, USA), Alice Christofi (Diocese of Europe; Italy), Helen Wolstencroft (Diocese of Guildford, UK), Nathalia Maiztegui (Diocese Meridional, Brazil), Carl Goldstone (Diocese of Natal, South Africa).
The Anglican encounter kicked off with an evening open to the public at the Anglican Cathedral of Christ the Redeemer in the neighborhood of Tijuca, and Dean Abimael Rodrigues was an incredible host—not just to our group, but the Cathedral also ended up as home base for a group of more than 100 Argentine Catholics in town for World Youth Day. Members of various parishes throughout Rio de Janeiro joined to welcome the group of young adults; all hosted by local parishes – the Cathedral, Parish of St. Paul in the neighborhood of Santa Teresa, and Parish of Christ the King in City of God.
The next day was spent in their various aforementioned church communities, and Tuesday the group reunited to begin its glimpse into World Youth Day events—from joining the steady ebb and flow of sightseers at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Sebastian, to checking out the events of the local Franciscan contingent, the afternoon took a decidedly more Anglican twist. The Rev Luiz Coelho of the Anglican Diocese of Rio de Janeiro assisted in facilitating a roundtable discussion on what does it mean to be a young Anglican today and each of the participants took the time to discuss their experiences from their specific dioceses.
From the opening Mass on Copacabana Beach, to visiting the Anglican parish Christ the King in the intentionally-created community of City of God, the group had many options to consider their views of the wider church worldwide, as well as to learn more about the church in Rio de Janeiro. From the natural splendor of Copacabana to the beautiful matrix of life encountered in the poverty of some parts of City of God, the Rev Nicholas Wheeler’s comments presented the question for all to continue pondering: “If the Church doesn’t stay in places like this, then what on earth are we doing? How does the Church have integrity…if not in places like this?”
As the events began to wind down, the group joined millions of Catholic youth on Copacabana for the evening vigil, and the following day, the closing Mass—the sense of hope in the air was practically tangible, and combined with the friendships that this small group of Anglicans had fast developed, the closing service at the Anglican Cathedral wonderfully capped off this incredible event. Young adult, the Rev Luke Hopkins, of the Diocese of Newcastle (Australia), poignantly reflected: “I feel as if this has brought the (Anglican) Communion closer together in a very small way. So my prayers will be for all of you, as well as the vital work you are doing in this city. And the message from the other side of the world is: despite that we are so very far away, you are never alone.”
This poignant quote perhaps best sums up this experience in Brazil—an experience these eight young adults take with them for the rest of their lives…thanks be to God.
Nina Boe is serving in the Provincial office in Sao Paulo, with the Young Adult Service Corps (YASC), a program of The Episcopal Church (USA)
Working at Church House, with the word ‘children’ in my title, means I am on the receiving end of a variety of interesting – and sometimes unanswerable – phone calls and email enquiries! But my job isn’t about being a one-woman-call-centre!
In 2010, General Synod of the Church of England received the Going for Growth report (http://www.going4growth.org.uk/downloads/going4growth.pdf), a snapshot of the Church’s engagement with children and young people, with a theological imperative for the work which is so often over-looked and under-resourced. The final chapter challenged the Church to:
My role is to resource this at a national level in order to enable it to happen at diocesan and parochial levels – and I do this working alongside the network of diocesan children and youth advisers and ecumenical colleagues. So what does that mean in practice? It includes:
Recently I was sent a video of some young people on a Christian holiday where they were asked, ‘What would you want to change about the Church?’ One young man eloquently responded, ‘It talks a lot but doesn’t say very much’. I hope and pray that my role will contribute towards the Church speaking with relevance to the lives of children and young people so that they will grow in Christian faith and understanding, and through their service within the church, challenge us to live more closely the way of Christ.
As for that question about Noah and Esther – I’m still searching for a contact number for the Council of Nicaea.
Mary Hawes- National Going for Growth (Children and Youth) Adviser Church of England
Anglican Witness: Evangelism and Church Growth Initiative now has 450 registered participants based in at least forty different countries. We also have over 750 friends in our Facebook group. The majority of the Facebook friends are not yet registered, so we’re pretty sure we’re directly in touch with over 1,000 different participants around the Anglican Communion!
That’s 1,000 people with different stories to tell about how they’re involved in evangelism and church growth in their own contexts; 1,000 people we can all learn from and share with.
Youare the Initiative; the participants. So use the Initiative as a way of keeping in touch, and to support and encourage and pray for each other. You can do this in the following ways:
Register if you haven’t already done so. Encourage others to register too! The online form is available on http://www.anglicancommunion.org/ministry/mission/ecgi — we will inform the core group person responsible for your region about you and make sure you are sent this newsletter;
Share your stories – so that we can include these within the newsletter; stories of how God is working through your church or organisation to grow his church; stories to encourage others; stories so that we can learn from your experience. Send stories, preferably of between 300 and 700 words, with photos to email@example.com Material for the January newsletter is needed by 30 January; we welcome all relevant material but would particularly like to hear more stories about church planting, as well as material on discipleship and initiatives that involve children and young people;
Explore the website – at www.aco.org/ministry/mission/ecgi you will find back copies of the newsletter, lists of evangelism resources and various resources that others have produced to help with their work;
Become a Facebook friend – once you have joined Facebook, go to http://www.facebook.com/groups/anglicanwitness the Facebook page provides an interactive forum so that you can share stories, prayer requests, resources and questions with each other. Then tell your friends;
Encourage others - who are involved in evangelism and church growth to register, join the Facebook group and explore our website. A first step is to forward copies of this newsletter;
Tell us - about resources: books; websites; courses, good practice; prayers, forthcoming events etc that we can include in future newsletters or on the website;
Translate - this newsletter, and other material, into the languages of those who cannot read in English; at this stage we do not have the resources to do this ourselves;
Pray! For the work featured in the newsletters and Facebook page and give thanks for God’s faithfulness.
The Mission Department
Anglican Communion Office
St Andrew’s House
16 Tavistock Crescent
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