Marks of mission

What we're here to do and be as part of the Anglican Communion
June 10, 2008

Who(se) are you? Why are you here? What are you doing about it? That's a shorthand way of thinking about our identity and vocation as Christians. It's also a way of leading us as individuals and Christian communities into thinking about our mission -- or better, our partnership in God's mission. Mission literally means "sending," and for us it means what we're here to do and be. In a large view, it's about partnering in building the Reign of God. In daily life, you and I get countless opportunities to engage in that mission.


In this season of heightened awareness of our part in the larger Anglican Communion, it's appropriate to engage in some reflection on those same questions. Who are we as members of the Anglican Communion? Why is our participation important? What are we doing about it?

The lead story in this issue of Episcopal Life focuses on those questions, and I want to suggest a couple of other resources as well. Forward Movement has just put out a little pamphlet, Why the Anglican Communion Matters, which I would commend to you. The author speaks of historical and theological realities and the witness that being able to love those who may disagree with us offers to the larger world.

I want to offer another resource. The Anglican Communion has been talking and teaching about Five Marks of Mission for more than 20 years, yet most Episcopalians have never heard about this framework for our participation in God's mission of healing the world.

Those five marks of mission include:

  • 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
  • To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth

They are a brief summary of the ways in which you and I live out our baptismal covenant and engage in God's mission of reconciling the world (Book of Common Prayer, page 855). They include what some have traditionally thought of as evangelism, pastoral care, Christian education, Christian political advocacy, corporal works of mercy, and stewardship of the garden in which God has planted us.

Together those five marks of mission remind us that it takes the whole Body of Christ to engage the whole Mission of God. None of us, and no one part of the Church, can engage them all in their fullness. Together, the Anglican Communion represents one of the single largest mission agencies in the world.

As our development partners repeatedly remind us, that distribution system of churches, often beyond the end of the road, is bigger and more widely spread than any governmental entity or social network around. Together, we do have the ability to love our neighbors, both near and far away, in concrete, practical ways that show the love of God in action.

The Nets for Life program being led by Episcopal Relief and Development is one example. Insecticide-treated bed nets are preventing malaria, saving lives, and allowing healthier children to go to school. This is one essential kind of mission work, fostered and facilitated by the network called the Anglican Communion.

There are abundant other examples in the many companion relationships between dioceses and congregations of The Episcopal Church and other parts of the Anglican Communion, where schools are being built and children educated, improved farming methods taught, evangelism practices learned, and the gifts of different cultures and contexts shared in music and liturgy. Wherever Anglicans share the love of God in Christ -- in prayer, witness, advocacy, and compassionate service -- there God's mission is being done. How will you and your fellow Episcopalians share in this work?