The World Council of Churches’ (WCC) Central Committee on August 30 received the first ecumenical affirmation of mission since 1982, invoking a new understanding of mission and evangelism in a changing world and ecclesial landscape.
The statement draws on insights from Protestant, Evangelical, Orthodox and Roman Catholic mission theologies, and will be presented at the WCC 10th Assembly in Busan, South Korea in 2013, according to a WCC news release.
“The significance of the statement lies in its concept of ‘mission from the margins’, which emphasizes the universality of working for all God’s people, as well as the creation, despite divisions and divides,” said Dr. Agnes Abuom, WCC Executive Committee member from Kenya.
The statement, titled “Together towards life: Mission and Evangelism in changing landscapes”, was prepared by the WCC’s Commission on World Mission and Evangelism (CWME).
The WCC Central Committee is a governing body representing the organization’s 349 member churches. It is meeting from August 28 to September 5 at the Orthodox Academy of Crete in Greece.
“The gift of the mission statement is that without attacking the old paradigm of mission values, it invokes new understandings which respond well to our different contexts, including that of migrant churches,” Aboum added.
Reflecting on the statement, the WCC general secretary, the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, said, “After several periods of mission and understandings of mission accompanying the ecumenical movement since the 19th century, this perspective is now where we are, acknowledging and appreciating the reality of the church and the gospel.”
“We are a fellowship of churches in mission in all these contexts, and the impulses and the inspiration for our work come from all the many contexts in which we are doing mission.”
Speaking on the different socio-political contexts in which churches work, Tveit said mission is “no longer an impulse coming from (a few) centers in the north. It is really a multi-centered reality. And my experience is that remarkably strong testimonies, with great integrity in words and action, are often given when the church represents a less privileged or even vulnerable position.”
Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana and Durres, who is the Orthodox primate of Albania and a WCC president, pointed out the significance of mission in the lives of the churches.
“Mission of the church, and every living member of it, means the obligation and the necessity to share the gifts which we have each received from God. This means to proclaim the truth, love and power revealed by Christ, the crucified and the resurrected one,” he said.
Along with the statement, the CWME will also produce practical mission modules and training curricula. Other resources will include publications and multimedia, to be shared at the upcoming WCC assembly.
The full text of the CWME statement on mission and evangelism and high-resolution photos may be found at www.oikoumene.org