From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Contemporary Culture Creates New Mission Situation,

Date 04 May 1996 20:41:33


95332  Contemporary Culture Creates New Mission Situation, 
                        WCC Moderator Says 
                         by John Newbury 
        World Council of Churches Office of Communication 
GENEVA--In a world where cultures are "the new powers of evil, destruction, 
dehumanization and death," the ecumenical movement must help to develop "a 
new way of being a missionary church." That challenge was posed to the 
World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee Sept. 14 in the opening 
report by its moderator, Aram I, catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic 
     To prepare for next year's World Conference on Mission and Evangelism, 
whose theme is "Called to One Hope: The Gospel in Diverse Cultures," the 
WCC has been encouraging local, regional and global theological reflection 
on the gospel-culture link, and Aram called the Central Committee to make 
its own contribution to that process. 
     He described culture as embracing "the wholeness of language, 
tradition, beliefs, institutions and customs" that hold a particular 
community together.  Within this "dynamic reality," religion plays an 
important and often central role. 
     But unlike Judaism, Islam and Hinduism, in which "the founding culture 
is the sacred model for encountering the ultimate reality," he said, 
Christianity sees culture as having "instrumental and transitory value." 
Consequently, the Christian gospel must take root in every culture through 
its own "cultural forms, patterns, norms and values." 
     The universality of the Christian faith, Aram said, means that "the 
gospel should cross all human frontiers and be taken to all the people, 
cultures and lands," but this process "must be accompanied by respect and 
sensitivity to the cultural values and norms of the other."  Historically, 
however, missionary outreach from the West often introduced "cultural norms 
and values that alienated local Christians from their own cultures." 
     Aram said three contemporary realities have given new urgency to 
rethinking the gospel-culture link: 
         Pluralism: "the world has become one place, one community, where 
cultures cannot maintain themselves apart from each other." 
         The way in which cultures have, amidst this pluralism, become 
"sources of social, political, economic, religious and ethnic divisions and 
         The emergence of a "new global monoculture ... produced by modern 
advanced technology and the market economy." 
     These realities pose several challenges to the ecumenical movement, 
Aram said.  One is to develop an "ecumenical hermeneutic," principles of 
interpretation shared by the churches which will foster dialogue and 
understanding among churches seeking to express the faith in very different 
cultural contexts.   At the same time, the ecumenical movement should help 
the churches, which have often been "a major factor in preserving cultural 
identity and cultural values" to avoid "cultural captivity while remaining 
faithful to their cultural heritage and identity." 
     In summarizing the role of the ecumenical movement in this "new 
missionary situation," Aram listed three tasks: 
        "to call the cultures to quality of life that is manifested in its 
fullness and authenticity through the gospel" 
        to "give wholeness, integrity and authenticity to cultures" in 
converging toward Christ 
        "to help the churches speak and act together in the common language 
of the gospel." 
     This last, he concluded, involves an affirmation of "life in the midst 
of cultures of death, peace in the midst of cultures of violence, justice 
in the midst of cultures of injustice and koinonia (Christian fellowship) 
in the midst of cultures of conflict and division." 

For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
  Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
  phone 502-569-5504            fax 502-569-8073  
  E-mail   Web page: 


Browse month . . . Browse month (sort by Source) . . . Advanced Search & Browse . . . WFN Home