Joint Assembly - Together for the Love of the World
I bring you greetings from The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society. That has been the formal name of The Episcopal Church for almost 200 years. We began to send missionary bishops to the wilds of the mid-continent in 1835, and 9 years later almost simultaneously sent one to China and one to Turkey. As a result of that missionary spirit, we are present today in Taiwan, Micronesia, Honduras, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Curaçao, Dominican Republic, Haiti, British and US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and the United States. We are in covenant relationship with several parts of the Anglican Communion – Brazil, Central America, Liberia, Mexico, and the Philippines, which represent some of the fruit of that earlier mission engagement. In spite of the decidedly mixed and colonial motives that led to churches in all those places, we continue in intentional fellowship and partnership for God’s mission. We are working at being together for the healing of God’s world.
One of the great insights of late-19th century mission work involved remembering the impulses of the first mission work – the going that Prof Duraisingh spoke of so eloquently last night – and the willingness to travel light. Roland Allen, Henry Venn and others remembered how Paul himself went into new communities, gave the scripture and sacraments, and then got out of the way, to let the gospel find root in new soil and adapt to the local context. Together for the love of the world does not mean identical forms and structures. It does mean honoring the gifts that God has already planted, that they might flourish in ways that can bless the world. The fullness of the gospel can only be known and lived in the diversity of the whole world. We need partners of all sorts, conditions, and cultures.
The Episcopal Church continues to seek to be a real and authentic partner in all its constituent parts, and seek deeper partnership with the ELCA, the Northern and Southern provinces of the Moravian Church, the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht, the Philippine Independent Church, the Mar Thoma Church, and the Church of Sweden. It is a long list, but it is an icon of our yearning to be partners in God’s mission for the healing and reconciliation of this world. The reality is that there are something like 7 billion other potential partners for God’s mission in this world. It is indeed all about relationship, relationships beyond our own borders and self-understandings. We cannot know ourselves except in loving relationship with the whole world, and we cannot know God more fully until we move beyond our own self-centered focus.
This gathering is a remarkable and hopeful witness for those of us on the other side of the border. The Episcopalians here are certainly catching this week’s excitement and possibility! We have a long way to grow in our relationship with the ELCA, and we give thanks for your example. Bishop Hanson, Archbishop Hiltz, Bishop Susan and I have begun to meet together once a year to try to discover ways and strategies for working together. That is slowly beginning to bear fruit.
Together, our four churches have missional possibilities in many, many different places, and all it really takes is the will to develop them – to cross the borders and find new life in loving the world. I pray that this missional virus will keep spreading across the border – and all sorts of borders. It’s even becoming a retrovirus, and changing our DNA. Let’s start a missional epidemic.
One example. Just two weeks ago TEC was blessed by the participation of Canadian Asian Anglicans in San Francisco for the 40th anniversary celebration of Episcopal Asiamerican Ministry. Canadians of Japanese descent in British Columbia have been important to justice-seeking in both nations in the aftermath of the WWII internments. That recent gathering fostered hopes for the establishment of a Canadian Asian Ministry collaborative – which could be a joint effort that draws in other partners as well.
Mission is about going into the world – together, at least two by two – to love, heal, and reconcile what is injured and broken. We are sent out of ourselves, out of our churches and worshipping communities, to be broken open for the healing of the world. A former bishop in New York used to dismiss people at the end of the service with these words, “get up, get out, and get lost.” It is a gospel word of sending: get up from the place of excessive comfort and stability and get out there in the world to find the lost – let’s get out of our own way and out of ourselves – and get lost, by losing our life in order to find it. Come Sunday, “get up, get out, and get lost!”