From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ACNS3310 Mission activists challenged to make a new community

From "Anglican Communion News Service" <>
Date Mon, 17 Feb 2003 23:51:54 -0000

ACNS 3310     |     CYPRUS     |     17 FEBRUARY 2003

Mission activists challenged to make a new community

by Margaret S Larom

"Transformation and Tradition" is the theme of the Anglican Mission
Organisations Conference under way in Cyprus, and some might think those
terms, like change and continuity, are mutually exclusive. But a mission
professor from South India used the Greek root word, "traditio," meaning to
"hand over" or "hand on", to show that the dynamic essence of the word is
essential to the transformative power of the Gospel. Think of the word
"tradition" as a verb or process, he said - "traditioning" - rather than a

More than 100 participants at the opening session on 12 February listened
with appreciation to the Revd Dr Christopher Duraisingh, whose own
missionary journey began with three years as a lay evangelist of the Indian
Mission Society, subsequently included 10 years on the mission staff of the
World Council of Churches, and now has him teaching at the Episcopal
Divinity School in Massachusetts.

Using images of highway building, border crossing, and polyphonic speech, he
challenged the international gathering to create a transformed community. He
began by examining the word "traditio" as it connects with the story of

Jesus was handed over to the soldiers, handed over to suffering and death.
God handed over his own Son, Jesus Christ, to sinful humans. But in handing
over, redemption happens. It is a continuing act of God, the gift of Christ
for the redemption of the world.

In the Book of Acts, we see the disciples constantly handing over the
Gospel, not guarding it possessively but letting it loose in the world.
Jesus promised that transformation would be the result. Sharing the Gospel
is a spontaneous activity in response to the Spirit, for the transformation
of the world around us. "We're here to identify what sort of handing over
leads to transformation and life, in all its abundance." Don't turn
tradition into an object and forget its vitality, he warned. Don't imprison
the Gospel.

"The world cries out for signposts that community is possible, across all
divides," he declared. Citing the "lovely vision" in Isaiah 19 - "On that
day there shall be a highway from Egypt to Assyria" (and later Jerusalem),
he asked. "I wonder whether the transformation that God wills for us is
highway-building! What would it be if people were drawn together, so they
could walk back and forth in a transformed community of mercy, justice and

This can't happen unless, like Peter in the Book of Acts, we learn to cross
borders and discover that God has no favourites. Mission activists come to
see that a transformed community must be polyphonic and polychrome - like
the women and men gathered for this mission conference. "What would it take
for the Anglican Communion to genuinely speak multivocally, to be a sign and
instrument of God's reign?" he asked. "How do we promote at this time a
genuinely polycentric ecclesial communion that is a missionary movement?"

The missionary history is the story of the blossoming of the Gospel, in a
thousand ways in all sorts of cultures and contexts. The de-centring process
that leads to multicultural expressions can be a blessing, but also a bane
(even a disaster), he said; a witness, or a betrayal. But, we can be charged
with imprisoning or domesticating the Gospel if we are not enabling dialogue
across cultures, he said. "Therefore, we need each other within the
Communion for a decentred but committed relationship within which mutual
challenge and enrichment of our faith, worship and missionary witness is
promoted." Remember Max Warren's maxim, "It takes the whole world to know
the whole Gospel."

For cross-cultural diffusion of Christian faith, for transformation in
contemporary contexts, missionary movements are the conduit, he said. "When
we travel, however, we tend to romanticize or demonise what we see - or I
try to fit what you are saying into my grid, homogenize it and make it mine.
That won't do! We must let each expression be, but dialogue within the
community, to speak the splendid nature of the Gospel."

"No one place or culture can hold the Gospel or 'own' mission; different
places become the heartlands and chief agents of mission at different times.
We even speak of the 'post-Christian West' and 'post-Western Christianity.'"

The question is, he concluded, "Are those of us who are concerned about
traditioning and transformation in mission within the Anglican Communion
ready for the needed metanoia and kenosis?" The fifth World Conference on
Faith and Order in 1993 in Santiago de Compostela, when faced with a similar
challenge, pointed to steps along the way in these powerful words:

"As we strip ourselves of false securities, finding in God our true and only
identity, daring to be open and vulnerable to each other [handing over if
you will], we will begin to live as pilgrims on a journey, discovering the
God of surprises who leads us into roads which we have not travelled, and we
will find in each other true companions on the way."

"Are not the mission organisations called to be the signs and foretaste of
God's intent, that people of diverse cultures and contexts be drawn into
communion at God's table?" he concluded. "May God grant us the grace to
"traditio" - hand over - the gospel in mission for the transformation of the
world and the glory of the Triune God."

The ACNSlist is published by the Anglican Communion Office, London.

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