From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Episcopalians: Mission conference in Cyprus explores transformation and tradition

Date 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 movement?"

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 
the Gospel.

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."

United witness

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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