Missiology: Mission as Reconciliation

A focusing biblical text:  Revelation 21: 1, 5

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more….And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.”

A focusing biblical text:  Matthew 5: 14-16

“You are the light of the world.  A city built on a hill cannot be hid.  No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Describe the action and nature of God in each of these texts.
  2. What are the implications of these understandings of God for the church and the world?
  3. How do each of these understandings of God, the church and the world shape the practice of mission?

Description of Mission as Reconciliation

The scope of mission continues to expand so that not only all of the human world, but all of creation is considered the object and subject of God’s mission.  The interrelatedness of justice, peace, and the integrity of creation (JPIC) provides the web in which this wholistic mission operates.  This emphasis calls for discernment between unjust structures needing to be replaced and the disrupted creation and situations that call for a restoration of wholeness, repaired relationships and healing.

Globalization and the age of communication bring disparate parts of the world together in closer contact and yet exclude even more fully the invisible and vulnerable persons among us.  Mission takes many forms, focusing on the sharing of life together and the creation of a just, sustainable and peaceful world order by accompanying those who are oppressed.

Reconciliation as a mission emphasis engages hurting people and situations of oppression for the purpose of promoting peace with justice.  Reconciliation as a foci encourages concrete steps toward the communion of all of humanity and creation with God and one another.

Illustrating Hymns 

“In the Midst of New Dimensions”
“For the Healing of the Nations”

Ecumenical meetings that describe Mission as Reconciliation: 

Reflection Guides:

  1. Outline world events during the 1990s through the early 21st century.
  2. Identify the role of the Church in mission in these excerpts.
  3. Describe the purpose of mission presented in these excerpts.  Discuss the positive and negative aspects of this emphasis of mission.

A.  Now is the Time:  Final Document and Other Texts, World Convocation on Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation, Seoul, Republic of Korea, 5-12 March 1990
 
JPIC is a vision of caring for all people and  creation as a family where each member has the same right to a wholeness of life. 

“Now is the time to commit ourselves anew to God’s justice…Now is the time when the ecumenical movement needs a greater sense of binding, mutual commitment and solidarity in word and action.  It is the promise of God’s covenant for our time and our world to which we respond…Now is the time for the ecumenical movement to articulate its vision of all people living on earth and caring for creation as a family where each member has the same right to wholeness of life”

Ten Affirmations on Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation 

  1. We affirm that all exercise of power is accountable to God.
  2. We affirm God’s option for the poor.
  3. We affirm the equal value of all races and peoples.
  4. We affirm that male and female are created in the image of God.
  5. We affirm that truth is at the foundation of a community of free people.
  6. We affirm the peace of Jesus Christ
  7. We affirm the creation as beloved of God.
  8. We affirm that the earth is the Lord’s.
  9. We affirm the dignity and commitment of the younger generation.
  10. We affirm that human rights are given by God.

Four Commitments Suggested by the Act of Covenant

1.  For a just economic order on local, national, regional and international levels for all people; for liberation from the foreign debt bondage that affects the lives of hundreds of millions of people.  We commit ourselves to work and to engage our churches to work…

2.  For the future security of all nations and peoples; for the demilitarization of international relations; against militarism and national security doctrines and systems; for a culture of non-violence as a force for change and liberation.  We commit ourselves to work and to engage our churches to work…

3.  For building a culture that can live in harmony with creation’s integrity; for preserving the gift of the earth’s atmosphere to nurture and sustain the world’s life; for combating the causes of destructive changes to the atmosphere which threaten to disrupt the earth’s climate and create widespread suffering.  We commit ourselves to work and to engage our churches to work…

4.  For the eradication of racism and discrimination on national and international levels for all people; for the breaking down of walls which divide people because of their ethnic origin; for the dismantling of the economic, political and social patterns of behaviour that perpetuate and allow individuals to consciously and unconsciously perpetuate the sin of racism.  We commit ourselves to work and to engage our churches to work…

(Now is the Time:  Final Document and Other Texts, World Convocation on Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation, Seoul, Republic of Korea, 5-12 March 1990, Geneva:  WCC-JPIC office, 1990, 12-21, 22-33.)

B. World Council of Churches Assembly, Canberra, Australia, 1991

Theme: “Come, Holy Spirit – Renew the Whole Creation.”

“The purpose of the Church is to unite people with Christ in the power of the Spirit, to manifest communion in prayer and action and thus to point to the fullness of communion with God, humanity and the whole creation in the glory of the kingdom...The calling of the Church is to proclaim reconciliation and provide healing, to overcome divisions based on race, gender, age, culture, colour and to bring all people into communion with God…” (The Unity of the Church:  Gift and Calling—The Canberra Statement, 1991).

C. Conference on World Mission and Evangelism of the WCC, “A Letter from Athens to the Christian Churches, Networks and Communities — Come Holy Spirit, Heal and Reconcile:  Called in Christ to be Reconciling and Healing Communities,” Athens (Greece) 9-16 May 2005

 “We stand now at a particular moment in the history of mission.  While the centres of power are still predominantly in the global North, it is in the South and the East that the churches are growing most rapidly, as a result of faithful Christian mission and witness.  The missional character of the Church is experienced in greater diversity than ever, as the Christian communities continue the search for distinctive responses to the Gospel.  This diversity is challenging, and it can sometimes make us uneasy.  Nevertheless, within it we have discovered opportunities for a deepening understanding of the Holy Spirit’s creative, life-sustaining, healing and reconciling work...

In Athens we were deeply aware of the new challenges that come from the need for reconciliation between East and West, North and South, and between Christians and people of other faiths.  We have become painfully aware of the mistakes of the past, and pray that we may learn from them.  We have become conscious of our own tendency to reinforce barriers by excluding and marginalizing on grounds such as race, caste, gender, disability or by tolerating the continuation of oppressive practices within our own societies and our own churches.  Halfway through the ‘Decade to Overcome Violence,’ we realize anew that the call to non-violence and reconciliation stands at the heart of the Gospel message.  As a global gathering, we are challenged by the violence inflicted by the forces of economic globalization, militarism, and by the plight of the marginalized people, especially the indigenous communities and peoples uprooted by migration….

But the road to reconciliation and healing is not an easy one.  It involves listening, truth-telling, repentance, forgiveness and a sincere commitment to Christ and his justice.  For this reason, we have explored a range of ways by which the healing power of God is made available to us.  These include the healing that takes place through prayer, ascetical practices and the charisms of healing, through sacraments and healing services, through a combination of medical and spiritual, social and systemic approaches, and through sensing the sustaining presence of the Holy Spirit, even when we accept and continue to struggle with illness and traumas….

But God calls us to be a community of hope.  “Called in Christ to be healing and reconciling communities,” we have continued here in Athens the task of defining the kind of community God desires us to become, a community that bears witness to the gospel in word and deed; that is alive in worship and learning; proclaims the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all; that offers young people leadership roles; that opens its doors to strangers and welcomes the marginalized within its own body; that engages with those who suffer, and with those who struggle for justice and peace; that provides services to all who are in need; that recognizes its own vulnerability and need for healing; and that is faithful in its commitment to the wider Creation.  We pray that the Holy Spirit will breathe healing power into our lives, and that together we may move forward into the blessed peace of the new creation….”
(Full text)

United Church of Christ and United Church Board for World Ministries documents:

Reflection Guides:

  1. Identify themes in the following documents that demonstrate how the United Church of Christ attempts to embody and reflect ecumenical mission emphases.
  2. How do these themes and actions affect the identity of the United Church of Christ?
  3. Do you see these emphases in the action of mission today (and into the future)?

A. Mission Statement adopted by United Church of Christ, General Synod 16

“Mission is – to embody God’s love for all people – to join oppressed and troubled people in the struggles from liberation and to work for justice, healing and wholeness of life.  There are a great variety of ways in which that mission can be achieved. UCC gifts are to ‘embody  God’s love – to work for justice.’”  (Whole Earth Newsletter, Fall 1988,  9). 

Scott Libbey, Executive Vice President of UCBWM, Reflections on the particular role of the UCBWM in light of the UCC Mission Statement

“Mission is whole in the proclaiming of the word and in the presence of service and actions of justice and love….in a missionary personality there as an embodiment of love and in support and provision of resources by which the quality of life for all people is improved with healing and hope honestly shared.” (Whole Earth Newsletter, Fall 1988, 9).


B. General Synod 17 Priority Goal Statement:  Integrity of Creation, Justice and Peace—Summary

“This priority goal statement includes a call for an end to war and for the establishment of new policies and structures of justice and common security from violence.  It affirms shalom as central to the Christian identity of United Church of Christ; calls for strengthening spiritual nurture, theological reflection, education, organizing action and advocacy; recognizes the interrelatedness of economic, racial and social justice, an end to war, hunger, poverty and economic exploitation and creating a sustainable environment that balances full and equal human development with the protection of the eco-system.  It calls for the establishment, locally and globally, of new policies – structures of justice, common security from violence and stewardship of all of God’s creation:  human, natural and spiritual.” (UCC General Synod, 7/2/89, p. 32)

C.  How We see it From Here:  Jack and Lydia Johnson-Hill, theological staff at the University of Durban-Westville, South Africa, 1996.
(Jack writes of a student who has a spirit is of forgiveness and reconciliation.)

“Almost all our students were also young children during one of the most turbulent times in South Africa’s recent history – the 1984-86 uprisings in which hundreds of children were killed, thousands were injured and over 100,000 were detained or jailed.  One of my favorites, Thulani, tells of a time when he was chased by soldiers because he was wearing a T-shirt with the word “Soweto” on it (commemorating the 1976 Soweto uprisings in which 176 children were killed). 

They tried to persuade him to get into the police van voluntarily, but he managed to talk his way out of it by drawing on skills he’d learned as a United Democratic Front (UDF) freedom fighter.  [Later arrested while trying to get UDF militants out of the country into exile] he was in prison for four years and then released early for good behavior shortly after Mandela and others were released.

As an adolescent of small physical size, he struggled in prison.  There were attempts by guards to make him a “slave” of one of the criminals in the adult section.  Let us say that he had a grim time.

And yet after all this Thulani is the first to call for forgiveness for everyone on both sides, white and black.  As he put it, ‘It was the white soldiers who were trying to cart me away, but it was also a white sympathizer who helped me develop leadership skills in the UDF.’  While coping with extreme hardship in prison, he converted to Christianity, studied hard and passed the high school equivalency.  This year he has helped me as a translator in an informal theological education outreach project.  He has won the respect and confidence of all the pastors in the group.

How have these students managed to do so well, especially given the Eurocentric content and methodology of so much of what we teach at the university?  I suspect it is because of something deep down in the human spirit, something in all of us, which resists dehumanization, which cries out for justice, which yearns to make the world a better place.  Thulani’s spirit is….born of suffering, but it is the spirit of new life.”  (Whole Earth Newsletter, Summer 1996,  5).

“The Mission of the Common Global Ministries Board”

The Common Global Ministries Board (CGMB) of the United Church of Christ Wider Church Ministries (WCM) and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Division of Overseas Mission (DOM) was formalized in 1996.  The Guiding Principles and Strategic Directions of the CGMB articulate the broad-based mission emphasis of reconciliation and seek to implement that through a “Critical Presence” priority as adopted by the CGMB.

Guiding Principles

The Guiding Principles emerge from a fundamental mission commitment to a shared life in Christ, and to an ecumenical global sharing of resources and prophetic vision of a just, sustainable, and peaceful world order, joining with God’s concern for the poor and oppressed.

  1. Within covenantal bonds with other partner churches and ecumenical bodies throughout the world, we commit ourselves in Christ to share life, resources and needs.
  2. As part of the ecumenical church and its response to particular historical and geographical contexts, we affirm our commitment to share persons in mission.
  3. We commit ourselves to discovering and sharing exciting new ways to sing the song of faith…hearing, telling and participating in the story of God’s love in Jesus Christ.
  4. Relying upon God’s grace, we commit ourselves to share in God’s healing of God’s continuing creation.
  5. Recognizing the freedom of God’s Spirit to act in diverse ways, we commit ourselves to engage in dialogue, witness and common cause with people of other faiths and movements with whom we share a vision of peace, justice and the integrity of creation.

In covenant with partner churches, DOM and WCM affirm a shared life in Jesus Christ.  Sharing life in partnership with other churches and ecumenical bodies through acompanamiento (being there in various forms and modes of presence) is the cornerstone of our global life and witness.  It is for the sake of Christian unity and mission that we join in covenant with others to witness to God’s love in the world.
(CGMB Standing Rules, November 2004)

The Strategic Directions

Relying on the leading of God’s Spirit, the CGMB is responding in faith to the challenge of a rapidly changing world by adopting a strategic approach emphasizing Critical Presence in all phases of its mission.  We understand Critical Presence to be timely and appropriately meeting God’s people and creation at the point of deepest need:  spiritually, physically, emotionally, and/or economically.

In our strategic approach, priority will be given to ministries of acompanamiento (being there in various forms and modes of presence) to and with people in critical situations, which may include: pastoral ministries related to fear and hopelessness where people are desperate for meaning; dangerous or life-threatening situations related to social, economic, or political realities; partners living in countries wherein the Christian faith is a minority faith; interfaith relations; conflict transformation and resolution; and areas where CGMB can offer a distinctive presence.

Direction #1 – Nurturing Human Community:  Persons in  Mission, Partnerships, and Programs
Direction #2 – Thinking Locally, Acting Globally
Direction #3 – Restoring the Environment and Economics to the Service of God

(CBMB Standing Rules, November 2004)


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