I had the good fortune of being invited to participate in a consultation organized by the World Council of Churches' (WCC) Commission on World Mission and Evangelism (CWME) two weeks ago in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. The consultation was focused on discussing ways to develop curricula to help teach the WCC's new affirmation on mission and evangelism, Together towards Life: Mission and Evangelism in Changing Landscapes. The affirmation was adopted by the WCC Central Committee in Crete in 2012 and presented to the entire WCC at their assembly last year in Busan, Korea.
Not only was the experience of being in South Africa with mission scholars and practitioners from around the world an exciting experience for me, I found Together towards Life itself to be an exciting and challenging document. The document shows real theological and spiritual depth in its focus on the missio Dei, the self-giving love of the Trinity, and the role of the Holy Spirit in mission. It reflects contemporary mission thinking in affirming the value of a diversity of cultures, noting the impact of migration, and highlighting the important place the poor and those on the margins have as agents of, and not just recipients of, mission. The document challenges its readers in its call to think of mission and being from the whole creation to the whole creation, in its strong criticism of the system of global capitalism, and in the questions it raises about God's activities in other religions.
There is much to praise, critique, and dissect in this document, a process that has already begun in other forums. This blog, as a project of the United Methodist Professors of Mission, will be looking at Together towards Life over the next couple of months as well. We will not be giving it a thorough read as we did with Grace Upon Grace. Our examination of that document reflected our identities as United Methodists. Our treatment of Together towards Life will instead reflect our identities as professors of mission. We will be continuing the discussion begun in Pietermaritzburg and elsewhere of how this document can be used to train clergy, missionaries, and laity. Although the document is an ecumenical document with wide appeal, we will focus primarily on its applications within United Methodist contexts. I hope you will join us as we see what the Spirit may be seeking to teach us through this document. Look for the Together towards Life tag to follow posts in this new series.