Churches’ Commission on Mission
(Churches Together in Britain and Ireland)
2 Paris Garden
London SE1 8ND
Commission on World Mission and Evangelism
World Council of Churches
Dear CWME colleagues:
We are writing to you as participants from churches and movements in mission in Britain and Ireland who have been present at the thirteenth Conference on World Mission and Evangelism in Athens, Greece, 9-16 May 2005. We do this through the office of the Churches’ Commission on Mission of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, which brings together the mission departments and agencies in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales.
In gathering together our impressions of the Conference, we affirm its emphasis on the healing and reconciling work of the Holy Spirit in a divided world. We rejoice that Christ is our peace and we renew our commitment to the koinonia and diakonia by which the fruits of God’s love and justice are made tangible.
But this leaves us with an urgent question. How will the World Council of Churches, through its Commission on World Mission and Evangelism, enable us to ‘talk the walk’ that we are sharing together? That is, how will it strengthen the kerygma (holistic evangelism) through which the nature, identity and call of Jesus Christ – the one who breaks down the world’s dividing walls – is made known?
Evangelizing mission has not featured prominently on the agenda of our conference in Athens. Few of the synaxeis (workshops) directly tackled the task of proclaiming God’s reconciling work in Christ by word and deed. The mentions of evangelism in plenaries seemed primarily cautionary – in the sense that while they (rightly) drew attention to abuses of the Word and the problem of proselytism, no positive picture was offered of the possibilities of healing and reconciling evangelistic practice.
Evangelism is a key component of holistic Christian mission precisely because it is the means by which we name the One who makes healing and reconciliation possible in his life, death and resurrection. It is God’s action in Christ, empowered by the Spirit, that gathers us and sends us out to be agents of personal and social transformation. It renews the church and grows its capacity for further witness and service.
Our hope and prayer is that, in the light of Athens, and looking forward to the General Assembly in 2006 and to the gatherings that will mark the centenary of Edinburgh 1910, the World Council of Churches will again make holistic evangelism a clear, identified priority. In particular, we would make the following practical suggestions:
First, that a commitment is made to focus the next World Mission Conference on the concrete theme of Announcing the Good News.
Second, that future ecumenical mission and evangelism gatherings create deliberate space for the participation of new mission movements from the South and fresh expressions of church-in-mission from the North. Many of these do not fit easily into the representative structure of the WCC, we realize. Therefore consideration will need to be given to new ways of gathering which allow intense dialogue and encounter between inherited and emergent traditions of mission, not least through those involved at the frontiers of evangelization – Evangelical, Pentecostal, Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox and Catholic. (1)
Third, that the work of the WCC regional Schools of Evangelism be strengthened by moving them into the creation of a network of practitioners across the world to share evolving methods and approaches to evangelistic mission, both online and in person.
Fourth, we request that as the structural changes within the WCC continue to move forward, the remit of the Evangelism Secretary should be restored to a full time post, with consideration given to secondments and internships that might additionally strengthen the work of the Evangelism Desk.
We make these suggestions in ways that reflect the need for careful consideration to be given to the strategic use of resources at a time of serious financial constraint for the World Council. We believe that it is feasible that the possibilities we have raised could attract partner funding from other sources to match the investment that WCC members are able to sustain.
Lastly, we wish to emphasize that in raising the concern for evangelism we do not see ourselves as making a plea for a particular cause. Rather, we are urging an ecumenical recovery of the central Christian vocation to announce the Good News of Jesus Christ – one that lends fresh visibility to the prophetic and pastoral mission of healing and reconciliation to which we have made a fresh commitment in Athens, and for which the fellowship of the World Council of Churches is known.
We look forward to your response, and to further conversations about these matters.
In the peace of Christ,
CTBI Churches’ Commission on Mission
Rev Dr Jim Campbell
Irish Council of Churches
Rt Rev Graham Cray
Bishop of Maidstone
Church of England
Canon Tim Dakin
Church Mission Society
Dr Kirsteen Kim
United College of the Ascension, Birmingham
Fr Philip Knights
Catholic Agency to Support Evangelization
England and Wales
(others in the process of signing)
(1) We write as persons from churches and agencies who are themselves moving to the frontiers – through the regeneration of the Church Mission Society as an evangelistic movement-in-mission, the initiative of the Catholic Bishops in England and Wales in creating the Catholic Agency to Support Evangelization, the commitment of our historic denominations to ‘fresh expressions of church’, the work of cross-cultural mission training, and the creation of an ecumenical laboratory of mission and evangelism through the Churches’ Commission on Mission’s Building Bridges of Hope project.