WCC seeks fresh understanding of the church's mission today

By staff writers
November 4, 2013

The World Council of Churches (WCC) 10th Assembly has been discussing mission - the task and message of the church today.

The plenary session presented an action-oriented reflection based on the new WCC mission statement, Together Towards Life: Mission and Evangelism in Changing Landscapes.

The plenary sought to highlight the common challenges and opportunities for mission in the current global context.

The new statement of the WCC had been unanimously endorsed by its Central Committee at their meeting in Greece in September 2012.

The WCC Commission on World Mission and Evangelism (CWME) has prepared A Practical Guide on the new statement, which includes Bible study, prayers and songs. The guide also includes a DVD that contains video clips on the history and activities of the CWME, the eight preparatory study reports leading to the new statement and the centenary issue of the WCC journal, the International Review of Mission (IRM).

The moderator of the plenary, Professor Kirsteen Kim, in her introductory remarks, acknowledged the growth and strength of the missionary movement of the Korean churches. Dr Kim is British-born and is married to a Korean scholar living and working in the UK.

The plenary presentations included what participants described as an engaging theological reflection by the Rev Dr Stephan Bevans, a priest in the Catholic missionary congregation of the Society of Divine Word (SVD) United States, on the WCC mission statement.

Dr Bevans, known for his work on contextual theology, recalled the words of Archbishop Rowan Williams: “Mission is finding out where the Spirit [is] at work, and joining in.” Similar early statements have originated from the late Bishop John V. Taylor and the South African missiologist David Bosch.

“It is with the same conviction and same faith in the Holy Spirit that this document proposes a fresh, dynamic approach to engaging in the work of mission and evangelism in today’s changing landscapes,” said Dr Bevans.

The plenary included two other reflections. “New Ways of doing Evangelism”, on the contemporary context of the presentation of the gospel message in the world, was delivered by the Rev Cecilia Castillo Nanjarí, who is from the Pentecostal Mission Church in Chile.

The second reflection was presented by Bishop Dr Geevarghese Mor Corillos, who is moderator of the CWME, speaking on the concepts of mission, including “mission from the margins”, derived from the new affirmations of the WCC statement.

The plenary included a CWME video production focusing on the changing landscape of global mission since the 1910 World Missionary Conference, also known as the Edinburgh Missionary Conference.

The Council of Church in the Phillipines brought the mission statement to life with vibrant and creative dance and music portraying contextual references on the mission of the Holy Spirit, bringing fullness of life.

In recent years the WCC has been keen to distinguish between legitimate evangelism (derived from the New Testament word for 'good news', which is a sensitive and inviting offering of the Christian message, and illegitimate proselytism, which is an attempt to manipulate the hearer.

* Read the whole WCC document, Together Towards Life: Mission and Evangelism in Changing Landscapes, here at: http://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/wcc-commissions/mission-...

* Official website of the WCC 10th Assembly: http://wcc2013.info/en

* More from Ekklesia on the WCC and its 10th Assembly: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/wcc

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