From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Episcopalians: Mission conference in Cyprus explores transformation and tradition
Tue, 18 Feb 2003 11:41:44 -0500
February 18, 2003
Episcopalians: Mission conference in Cyprus explores
transformation and tradition
by Margaret Larom
(ENS) Under the theme "Transformation and Tradition," more than
100 participants in the Anglican Missions Organizations
Conference in Cyprus were told that "the world cries out for
signposts that community is possible--across all divides."
Using the "lovely vision" of Isaiah 19, Prof. Christopher
Duraisingh, who spent 10 years on the mission staff of the World
Council of Churches and now teaches at Episcopal Divinity School
in Massachusetts, wondered 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 peace?"
Duraisingh, who began as a lay evangelist in the Church of South
India, argued that this transformation can't happen unless, like
Peter in the Book of Acts, we learn to cross borders and
discover that God has no favorites. "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 history, he added, is the story of how the Gospel
blossoms in a thousand ways, in many different cultures and
contexts. If we do not enable dialogue among different cultures,
he said, we could be charged with imprisoning or domesticating
the Gospel. "Therefore we need each other within the Communion
for a decentered but committed relationship within which mutual
challenge and enrichment of our faith, worship and missionary
witness is promoted."
He invited participants to think of tradition as a verb or a
process, rather than a noun, since the Greek root word
"tradition" means to "hand over" or to "hand on," showing a
dynamic essence that is essential to the transforming power of
Where is the fire?
In the opening plenary February 12, Bishop Simon Chiwanga of
Tanzania, who just completed a term as chair of the Anglican
Consultative Council, asked, "Where is the fire that ignites us
to share the good news of our faith with others?" He answered
the question, "It is a search for wholeness--the wholeness
glimpsed in the central crucified and victorious figure of
Christ. This quest also drives us to seek to continually renew
our vision for mission, to make sure that our passion for
mission is not driven simply by human motives, however
humanitarian they might be."
He added, "This quest can be the fire that drives us to
participate in the mission of God in God's world, which is
reconciliation and restoration of all people and the world to
Edwina Thomas, a lay woman from the United States who is
director of Sharing Our Ministries Abroad (SOMA), responded to
the bishop's presentation with a personal testimony, describing
her own conversion to mission as a call to love people "who are
not like me." She underscored her absolute dependency on
biblical reflection and intimacy with Jesus Christ for strength
to carry out the work of mission.
"Mission is a cycle," Thomas said. "You can't engage in mission
without reflection because it drives us back to God continually.
My challenge daily is to seek God. I firmly believe mission is
about relationships and my first relationship is with Jesus."
Chiwanga shared his conviction that the Anglican Communion's
rootedness in worship and prayer has enabled Anglicans to come
through our conflicts in biblical and theological understandings
as "a more vital, more relevant, and more influential church."
He added, "Not that we have solved those conflicts in
interpretation of Scriptures and our theological convictions,
declaring a victor and a vanquished, and dividing the spoils of
that war. Rather, I see us Anglicans as engaging together in
mission without needing first to 'solve' hot button issues as
Chiwanga said that he is convinced that "as a church we emerge
from these conflicts stronger than we were before, because
different views grow out of all our efforts to find the best way
to do mission. They grow out of an intense discernment of God's
mission for us in our respective contexts." He said that
"mission today is about solidarities in action--solidarities
across borders of language, experience, culture, wealth,
liturgical expressions." He said that "more and more of us are
realizing that we don't need to agree on human sexuality in
order to advocate for persecuted Christians; we don't need to
have the same churchmanship to combat poverty; we don't need to
agree on our theology before working for peace and safety in
"Our hope and future as an ecclesial community is our united
witness and participation in God's mission," Chiwanga concluded.
"If we do this, we will be effective signs and instruments of
transformation and tradition."
(Full text of Chiwanga's speech available at
--Margaret Larom is a staff member of the Episcopal Church's
Office of Anglican and Global Relations.
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