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Distinctives of Ecumenical Missiology
As we are dealing with ecumenical missiology, so at the very outset it is appropriate to ask what missiology is. There are different definitions given for missiology, but we take here Verkuyl¶s definition of missiology: ³Missiology is the study of the salvation activities of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit throughout the world geared toward bringing the kingdom of God into existence.´1 Now what is ecumenical missiology? Ecumenical missiology is studying the salvation activities of the Triune God in regard to ecumenical movement. The word ecumenism comes from Greek word, oikoumene, which means the whole world. This word also can be understood as making the whole world united. The efforts for ecumenism in general can be traced from the very beginning with different church councils. In this paper I will attempt to trace out some missiological concepts of ecumenism. David Bosch says that ³ecumenical movement is wider than WCC,´2 it is right but our scope of ecumenical missiology is limited to WCC affiliated ecumenical efforts which started from Edinburgh 1910. As a methodology I have humbly taken into account the different ecumenical conferences and tried to trace out their emphases on certain issues in mission with the help of the missiologists who have already done it in the past. The purpose of this paper is to present the Distinctives of Ecumenical Missiology. To have a foretaste of ecumenical mission it is appropriate to just glance through the mission statement of WCC at the very outset:
It sees the mission challenges for the churches as finding a balance between a clear witness to the gospel, the respect for people's dignity, and solidarity with those who suffer, e.g. from exclusion, injustice or sickness. Mission emanates from worshipping churches and includes evangelism, the search for inclusive communities, various forms of healing ministries, as well as covenanting for justice. In WCC's perspective, mission must be µin Christ's way¶ and strive for authentic reconciliation and peace, counting on the presence and power of God's healing Spirit, in particular in situations of religious plurality.3
This statement of WCC reflects ecumenical missiology as to how to go ahead with mission in this world. So let us now reflect on the different ecumenical missiological concepts. (WCC, IMC, CWME are respectively, World Council of Churches, International Missionary Conference and Commission on World Mission and Evangelism.) Let Us Be United: Unity of Church The essential ingredient of ecumenical missiology is the pursuit for the unity of the church. It is a pursuit which aims to the kingdom of God and participates in human divergence in the name of the good news of Jesus Christ. Ecumenical missiology regards that we as the followers of Christ are ³called to present the witness of a united church which can symbolize, anticipate and serve the reconciliation of all humanity and the whole of creation.´4 Emilio Castro says that ³we have to grow in one traditioncommunion- of the one church.´5 At the foundation of WCC itself the call for unity was so clear. At its founding Amsterdam Assembly in 1948 it was said, ³Here at Amsterdam«we intend to stay together. We call upon Christian congregations everywhere to endorse and fulfill this covenant in their relations one with another«.´6 IMC, Willingen in 1952, spoke on church¶s sole calling to mission and unity, Scherer quotes, ³the calling of the church is to be one family in Him and to make known the whole world, in word and deed, His gospel of the kingdom.´7 At New Delhi Assembly in 1961, where IMC and WCC were integrated, the call to the churches was that we must together look for the richness of
J. Verkuyl, Contemporary Missiology: An Introduction, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1978), 5. David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission (New York: Orbis Books, 1991), 461. 3 http://www.oikoumene.org/programmes/unity-mission-evangelism-and-spirituality/mission-and-unity.html (24 June 2010). 4 Emilio Castro, A Passion For Unity: Essays on Ecumenical Hopes and Challenges, (Geneva: WCC Publication, 1992), 1. 5 Castro, A Passion For Unity, 2. 6 Ans J. Van der Bent, Vital Ecumenical Concerns, (Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1986), 67. 7 James A. Scherer, Gospel Church & Kingdom: Comparative Studies in World Mission Theology (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1987), 96.
org/showchapter. but related to and expressed within the material. 1910. mission is the very heart of God and thus missio Dei became a key concept in ecumenical missiology. It was thus put in the context of the doctrine of the Trinity. Thomas is one of the strong supporters of this understanding of salvation. Roger E. XXXVII. especially in actions favoring the powerless of the world is not a deviation from the main concern of the Christian faith but precisely the relevant manifestation of it in today¶s world.ebscohost.8 The theme of unity of church was the key concept in almost all the ecumenical meetings. with the theme ³Salvation Today. David Bosch summarizes conclusions at Willingen as follows: ³Mission was understood as being derived from the very nature of God. 246 (April 1973): 139. Vol.´ he shared ³the meaning of salvation today as human spirituality committed to structures of ultimate meaning and sacredness . 16 Philip. he wrote that evangelization is basically concerns to the struggle for social justice in the world. not of ecclesiology.´13 In the same meeting.Salvation as Humanization M. in the struggle for harmony against the alienation of person from person. 73. It Is All About God. ³Bangkok. Here. No. 76.not in any pietistic or individualistic isolation.10 In the course of time this became an important missiological concept in ecumenical thinking.´ International Review of Mission. Salvation Today. 11 Jannie Swart. but at the same time to fulfill the task ahead older and younger churches have to work together in participation. or soteriology. Therefore. gave way to a new concept of mission as God¶s mission. 62.org/showchapter.15 Reflecting on Geneva Conference of CWME. T. The New Opportunity. 390. 95. Transforming Mission. Castro said that ³Christian participation in struggles for social justice.religion-online. Canada in 1947. In 1972 Bangkok. Edinburgh to Salvador: Twentieth Century Ecumenical Missiology http://www. in the struggle for human self-esteem against the political domination of human beings. Hedlund.Missio Dei At IMC Willingen the traditional understanding of mission as converting the heathen. Vol.V. Gospel Church & Kingdom. 10 Scherer. LXII. and in the struggle of hope against despair in personal life.V. Roots of Great Debate in Mission: Mission in Historical and Theological Perspective (Bangalore: Theological Book Trust. .´ delegates from the older and the younger churches came together with the responsibility to prepare themselves for universal partnership in evangelism. ³One hope of Willingen was to bring missio Dei and Trinity together as theological warrants for mission. the Conference saw the saving work of Christ in four social dimensions. http://web. At Whitby. social and cultural revolution of our time.religion-online.asp?title=1573&C=1521 (25 June 2010). Joining Each Others Hands: Partnership in Evangelism At Jerusalem Conference in 1928 one of the discussed subjects was international missionary cooperation9 which was initiated at Edinburgh.´ International Review of Mission.Christian unity. 13 T. et al. Within this inclusive view of salvation. Missiology: An International Review of Mission. and it played the foundational role in articulating other concepts of ecumenical missiology. Philip. it was emphasized that even though the older churches still need to contribute to the life of the younger churches. Vital Ecumenical Concerns. Vol.´14 Once in the editorial of IRM.asp?title=1573&C=1521 (25 June 2010) 14 Emilio Castro.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=5&hid=110&sid=fbda960c-c115-459d-8992e9e4a8bb4e82%40sessionmgr104 (25 June 2010) 12 Bosch.salvation works in the struggle for economic justice against the exploitation of people by people. ³« That the World may Believe. They were requested to become partners in evangelizing the world where the gospel of Jesus Christ is yet to be made known. under the theme ³Partnership in Obedience. (January 2009). Philip says that salvation expresses God¶s concern and love for all humanity. LXIV No.´11 Willingen changed the focus from the missio ecclesea to missio Dei.´12 So in ecumenical missiology the mission is understood as the mission of God and the human efforts as participation in God¶s mission towards whole of humanity. 1993). 255 (July. 16 8 9 Van der Bent.M. 1975): 240. Edinburgh to Salvador http://www. 15 Emilio Castro. planting the churches etc.
154. at Vancouver Assembly in 1983 it was clarified that ³witness may be described as those acts and words by which a Christian or community gives testimony to Christ and invites others to make their response to him. not God-church-world.´ It discussed about the liberation of humanity from various captivities. ³The Current Conciliar Theology of Mission. Gospel Church & Kingdom.23 Scherer refers Hoekendijk saying that church must never be overemphasized but should be meant as a tool of God¶s redemptive work and means of creating peace in the world. 68. . are to be a witness of God¶s work in Christ.25 Ecumenical missiology holds that it is for the world that God sent his Son and the concern for the whole world forms a strong missiological emphasis. He argues that God is directly active in the present-day world history setting up signs of his Kingdom. and it was emphasized that through Christ the whole humanity is liberated and we need to participate in liberating the people who are still under various bondages. among the poor and among living faiths.B. was a fervent opponent of the church-centric outlook of mission. ³Contemporary Currents in Missiology. (Grand Rapids: William B. Reflections and reports were presented on Nazareth Manifesto (Luke 4:18). 1983). by Arthur F. 23 Philip.18 Therefore.M. and our obedience to the good news. in worship. World in the Center: God-World-Church Johannes C. Gospel Church & Kingdom. In his view. color and others in this world itself. 19 Philip.21 Therefore. ³the supreme task of the church today is to liberate congregations and denominations from their egocentricity and mobilize them for new tasks in the world. ³The Current Conciliar Theology of Mission. 442. race. Glasser and Donald McGavran (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House. 18 Scherer.24 Reflecting on the ecumenical theology of mission McGavran says that for them God-world-church is the right order. Edinburgh to Salvador http://www. It encouraged that the church¶s words and works.19 Regarding witness. The Christian individual should participate in these actions and so the church must be involved in the missio Dei.e. 97. its entire existence of mission. poverty. Gospel Church & Kingdom.org/showchapter.asp?title=1573&C=1521 (25 June 2010) 20 Scherer. In witness we expect to share the good news of Jesus and be challenged in relation to our understanding of. 25 McGavran. Christ-likeness: Witness The Willingen Conference in its report on µThe Missionary Calling of the Church¶ exhorted the churches to be in harmony with the world. the Kingdom of God is designed for the world. Camps et al.22 The world is the field in which the seeds of the Kingdom are sown.Breaking the Bondages: Liberation McGavran says that according to ecumenical theology of mission.´20 Witness can be done in number of ways and in different contexts i. 1973 was ³Salvation Today. 1995).asp?title=1573&C=1521 (25 June 2010). Eerdmans Publishing Company. living the life of Christ and witnessing it in and through our life has been a strong missiological implication for ecumenical movement from its beginning onwards. Jongeneel and J. 21 Scherer. liberation is a strong missiological idea of ecumenical thinking. He thinks that the world is in the center of God¶s plan not the church. 121-122. 155. The church has to consider itself as one of the means of God through which He reforms the world and sometimes God uses other means than the church.´ in Missiology: An Ecumenical Introduction. Hoekendijk. Gospel Church & Kingdom. edited by A. He says that the kingdom of God is at the focus in missiology. Salvation was understood as an experience of being liberated from all kinds of bondages. in culture. 24 Scherer. not the church. 22 J. Let Us Talk: Dialogue and Inter-faith Dialogue Ecumenical understanding in regard to dialogue is engaging in mutual discussion regarding one¶s faith within the different traditions and denominations of Christianity for unity and with other faiths to 17 Donald McGavran.org/showchapter.A. van Engelen.religion-online.religion-online.´ 65.´ in Contemporary Theologies of Mission. an ecumenical theologian.´17 The theme of Bangkok Assembly. Edinburgh to Salvador http://www. The proclamation of the early Christians was aimed at the liberative act of God.
34 Therefore. 32 Bosch. 2006). There may be many other concepts which might find their place in their thinking.asp?title=1573&C=1521 (25 June 2010). dialogue was understood as an ³encounter where people holding different claims about ultimate reality can meet and explore these claims in the context of mutual respect.org/showchapter. the important thing is that how far we are able to implement them. Gospel Church & Kingdom. 2002). 31 Philip. not only in its perplexity and distress. ³Mission.´29 Siga Arles says that ³ecumenical theology of mission understood mission in the context of religious pluralism and promoted inter-faith dialogue with a view to religious harmony. A Passion For Unity.org/showchapter. It took the form of a prayer for the presence of Holy Spirit which would make human being to have concern for the whole creation of God.´31 At Melbourne (1980) the poor were given a central place in missiological discussion. as Jesus did. its guilt and its sorrow. Thomas and Stanley Samartha contributed significantly to this concept of ecumenical missiology. the eternal life aspect. 33 Castro. establishing peace and justice and having ecological concerns are at the center of ecumenical agenda in present context of violence and religious tensions. Evaluation and Conclusion These are some of the distinctive key concepts of missiological thinking of ecumenical movement. It is done to ³promote greater mutual understanding and more intimate fellowship among Christians of differing traditions.´ 66.´28 Ecumenical missiology is of the view that in all religions there is some truth which can contribute to the wisdom and the salvation of the world. mainly by the evangelicals. .´ In this assembly the scope was on the whole creation. and establishing justice in an unjust world by creating peace and taking care of the creation of God has gained the missiological approach in ecumenical thinking. Therefore. edited by Jacob Kurian.V. 547. M.witness Jesus Christ and to learn from them. sprouted from their different conferences and assemblies. looking at the world with compassion. Emilo Castro mentions three fundamental concerns in modern ecumenical movement: the growing inventions of nuclear and chemical weapons. peace and integrity of creation (JPIC). 65. Peace. and express our common concern for that humanity. Ecumenical missiology has been criticized by many. Philip.M. 34 Castro. Quoting Castro. 26 27 Paulus Mar Gregorios On Ecumenism. and Integrity of Creation Caring others. Transforming Mission.´27 In Vancouver Assembly in 1983. Let Us Care: Justice. 83. Issues and Themes. edited by Lalsangkima Pachuau (Bangalore: United Theological College. ³µEcumenical Missiology¶ Challenges from an µEvangelical Perspective. ³The Current Conciliar Theology of Mission. 53. is dialogue among equals. for neglecting the most important concept of mission as evangelism.´26 Uppsala 1968¶s report talks about interfaith dialogue: ³In dialogue we share our common humanity. 30 Siga Arles. but also in its real acts of love and justice. Edinburgh to Salvador http://www. Edinburgh to Salvador http://www.´32 The sixth assembly of WCC at Vancouver called for the development of a concilar process for justice. T.Renew the Whole Creation.´30 People like Lesslie Newbigin.33 The Seventh Assembly of WCC at Canberra in 1991 met under the theme ³Come Holy Spirit. its dignity and fallen-ness. it is very important to implement our missiological ideas in right manner to reach the world with the gospel of Christ. 155 29 McGavran.religion-online. therefore.religion-online.¶´ in Ecumenical Missiology: Contemporary Trends.asp?title=1573&C=1521 (25 June 2010) 28 Scherer. (New Delhi: ISPCK. A Passion For Unity. The important thing is not that how good and promising concepts our missiological thinking has. but I have brought out these within the limitations of this paper. Bosch says that at Melbourne considering the poor was ³missiological principal par excellence. Quoting Goodal. the rift between rich and poor and the ecological threat. 84. Philip says that Willingen conference emphasized that ³the Church is required to identify itself with the world.
Roots of Great Debate in Mission: Mission in Historical and Theological Perspective. B.org/programmes/unity-mission-evangelism-and-spirituality/mission-andunity.religion-online. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House. Ans J. Emilio ³« That the World may Believe. Geneva: World Council of Churches. Issues and Themes. 255 July. Emilio. http://web. Vital Ecumenical Concerns. Geneva: WCC Publication. XXXVII. Glasser and Donald McGavran.´ In Missiology: An Ecumenical Introduction. van Engelen.´ International Review of Mission. by Arthur F. 1983. T. LXIV No. The New Opportunity. et al.´ International Review of Mission. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.M. ³The Current Conciliar Theology of Mission. Castro.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=5&hid=110&sid=fbda960c-c115-459d-8992e9e4a8bb4e82%40sessionmgr104 (25 June 2010). Edited by Lalsangkima Pachuau. 1995. Grand Rapids: William B. . ³Bangkok. Castro. Vol. J. No. Bosch.html (24 June 2010). Edited by A.B. 1991. Jongeneel. 2002. Jacob. Emilio.´ In Contemporary Theologies of Mission.. David J. 246 April 1973. 2006. Scherer. Kurian. January 2009. Castro.Bibliography Arles. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Vol.¶´ In Ecumenical Missiology: Contemporary Trends. Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. Missiology: An International Review. Edinburgh to Salvador: Twentieth Century Ecumenical Missiology http://www.. Eerdmans Publishing Company. Siga ³µEcumenical Missiology¶: Challenges from an µEvangelical Perspective.A. Contemporary Missiology: An Introduction. New Delhi: ISPCK. Ed. Swart. McGavran.asp?title=1573&C=1521 (25 June 2010). Bangalore: Theological Book Trust. Bangalore: United Theological College. 1987. Roger E. Vol. 1992. and J. Verkuyl. J. ³Contemporary Currents in Missiology. A Passion For Unity: Essays on Ecumenical Hopes and Challenges. Van der Bent. Paulus Mar Gregorios: On Ecumenism. Jannie. 1986. Donald.V. 1975.org/showchapter. Hedlund. Philip. http://www. 1993. Gospel Church & Kingdom: Comparative Studies in World Mission Theology.oikoumene. LXII. Grand Rapids: Wm. Camps et al. New York: Orbis Books. James A. 1978.ebscohost.
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