'Mission is at the very heart of the church,' keynoter tells conference

God's gift of communion is meant for mission, Kafwanka says
February 22, 2009

Mission is at the very heart of the church, not just something that churches add to what "we normally do," the Rev. John Kafwanka of the Anglican Communion Office's Mission and Evangelism desk told members of seven Anglican Communion provinces in the Americas gathered here February 23.

Kafwanka was the keynote speaker for the five-day Conference of the Anglican Churches in the Americas on Mutual Responsibility and Mission. The full text of his speech is available here.

"We believe that mission happens primarily at the local level, but also takes place at the global level," said Kafwanka. "We also believe that mission is from everywhere to everywhere."

The Anglican Communion is in part an instrument of God's mission, Kafwanka said, adding that mission is "God's way of loving the world."

Every part of the communion has resources it can and must give to others, and every part needs resources that other communion members can and must provide, he added. "Parts of the communion are gifted differently," Kafwanka said.

Those resources include prayer, training, differing theologies, strategies, case studies, stories, knowledge, experience, personnel and money, according to Kafwanka. He said he deliberately listed money as the last resource, even though many people consider it to be the most important resource and believe that the lack of it allows for the creation of dependent rather than interdependent relationships.

"This week we have come to discuss and we have come to consider something that is really not new and yet sounds new at the same time," Kafwanka said. The idea of interdependence and mutual responsibility were first developed by the bishops, clergy and lay people who attended the 1963 Anglican Congress in Toronto, whose theme was "bearing one another's burdens."

The aspirations of those who gathered in Toronto have not yet been realized, Kafwanka said and he called on the conference to consider what interdependence and mutual responsibility mean in today's contexts. "We ought to ask: is this about us or is this about God's mission?" he suggested.

Kafwanka also grounded his remarks in the communion's "checklist" for mission known as the Five Marks of Mission. Those five marks, agreed upon during meetings of the Anglican Consultative Council in 1984 and 1990, are to proclaim the good news of the kingdom; to teach, baptize and nurture new believers; to respond to human need by loving service; to seek to transform unjust structures of society and to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.

The San José meeting is meant to foster networking for mission among the provinces. Each province has a 40-minute session to describe the successes and challenges in their mission and ministry, how well they work within the Five Marks of Mission framework and what other attributes of mission they might like to see added to the five marks.

The Anglican Church of Canada, a conference participant, has already proposed adding a sixth mark of mission that calls for working towards "peace, conflict transformation and reconciliation." Primate Fred Hiltz told the conference that his province suggested the addition when it realized that much of the mission work done by many Anglican Communion provinces includes these efforts. The Anglican Consultative Council will consider the addition when it meets May 1-12 in Kingston, Jamaica, according to Kafwanka.

Conference participants will spend Ash Wednesday (February 25) visiting various ministry sites with Costa Rican Anglicans. There will also be training opportunities. The conference closes with Eucharist February 27.

"We are here to pray, reflect together, and return to action," Diocese of Recife Bishop Sebastio Armando Gameleira Soares wrote in the introduction to the conference's three-part Bible study on the Acts of the Apostles. "We want to meet in prayer and share our dreams. We want to clearly see what we should announce to this world so torn apart and even threatened by destruction. We want to conspire to help change this reality."

The Bible study developed by Soares, a member of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil, is divided into sessions on adoration, proclamation and action. He called the adoration session "a time for intuition and dreaming." The proclamation session involves analyzing "the reality we live in and [choosing] the right words for each setting and for each age of humanity," he wrote. In the final section on action, Soares notes that the root Greek word for action is also the root of the word poetry. "So dream and projects are no escape from reality," he wrote. "To do poetry is project action."

Eight provinces were invited participate in the conference, including the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Anglican Church of the Central America Region (IARCA), the Anglican Church of Mexico, Church in the Province of the West Indies, the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone of the Americas, and the Episcopal Church of Cuba, along with The Episcopal Church.

Each province was invited to send two clergy and four lay representatives to the gathering, along with its primate and provincial secretary or designated representatives. When the Southern Cone and West Indies primates chose not to send official delegations, the planning team asked for and received their permission to invite individual dioceses in the two provinces. No West Indies dioceses accepted that second invitation, according to the Rev. Gregory Straub, the Episcopal Church's executive secretary and a member of the conference planning team.

The Southern Cone dioceses of Peru and Uruguay decided to participate. However, visa problems have prevented the Peru participants from traveling to Costa Rica, he said. Visa problems also detained members of the Episcopal Church in Cuba.

The idea for the gathering grew out of a November 2006 proposal for an Anglican regional convocation of the Americas that Bonnie Anderson, president of the Episcopal Church House of Deputies and Executive Council vice president, made to the council. Resolution INC005 from that council meeting authorized a work group, appointed by Anderson and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, to develop the idea. The resolution said that the goal of such convocation would be "to equip better our churches for mutuality and interdependence in God's mission."

Anderson told Executive Council during a recent meeting that the hope is that "deep engagement with each other on a personal level" about mission and ministry will result in the development of new networks for regional mission efforts.