The Yorkshire Ministry Course Theology Mission and Praxis 2009


St Edmundsbury Study Day

God and the World: Opportunities for Mission

1. Theology and Experience in dialogue

(i) Experience: How are churches engaging in mission at the moment? (ii) Recent developments in the Theology of Mission (iii) How can one learn from the other?

(i) Experience: How are churches engaging in mission at the moment?

This cartoon by Dave Walker originally appeared in the




• • • • • • • … … … School assemblies and worship Hospital and prison chaplaincy Church planting Street pastors

• • • • • • • Christian Aid collecting Mums and toddlers groups After-school childrens’ clubs and services Community projects … … …

(ii) Recent developments in the Theology of Mission

… the loose use of the word ‘mission’ in the last half century masks a crisis (David J. Bosch,

Transforming Mission, 1991, p.1).

Bosch believes there has been a terrible failure of nerve over mission (p.7) and that the churches are not sure any more what it is really all about.

Cf. Chinese characters for ‘crisis’ - ‘danger’ and ‘opportunity’ Return to the roots of mission: missiology missio (Latin) ‘sending’ & logos (Greek) ‘word’ ie. ‘talk about sending’ But who sends who?

The genealogy of the word ‘mission’ from the Oxford English Dictionary 5. An intensive course of preaching, services, and other religious activities organized to stimulate interest in the Christian faith, or in the work of a parish or particular church. 1772 tr. J. F. de Isla Hist. Friar Gerund I. 287 (note) In the time of Lent many preachers go about from town to town, inveighing vehemently against sin, and strenuously exhorting to repentance, which is called going upon a Mission.

4. a. A permanent establishment of missionaries abroad; a missionary post or station; a mission house.

1770 Ann. Reg. 1769 189 An officer that has lived seven years in the missions of Paraguay. 1825 R.Southey Tale of Paraguay III. xiv, They..To the nearest mission sped and ask'd the Jesuit's aid.

3. a. The action of sending men or women forth with authority to preach the faith and administer the sacraments; an instance of this. Also: the authority given by God or the Church to preach.

1641 J.Jackson True Evang. Temper III. 186 the Mission first of his Twelve, and after of his Seventy. 1656 T. Blount Glossographia, Mission (says a Roman Catholick Author) is a giving of Orders, Jurisdiction and power to preach that Doctrine, which is taught by the Catholick Church, and to administer the Sacraments.

2. a. A body of priests, esp. Jesuits, trained in seminaries abroad and sent to the British Isles to spread the Catholic faith and minister to the Recusant population; the enterprise or purpose for which such a body is sent or established. Now hist. 1598 in H. Foley Rec. Eng. Province Soc. Jesus (1878) III. 723 Ye continuallie confluence of the rares and bestes [sic] wittes of our nation to the Seminaires, and ther constance in following their missions.

1. In Trinitarian theology: the sending into the world of the Son or Spirit by the Father, or of the Spirit by the Son, esp. for the purpose of salvation. 1530 R.Whitford Werke for Housholders G.iiiv, The missyon or sendynge of e holy ghost. 1610 Bible (Douay) II. Joel ii. Comm., The mission of the Holie Ghost performed on Whitsunday.

This draws on pre-Sixteenth century usage in Latin: eg. The Eucharistic prayer of Hippolytus - earliest extant version in Latin dating from 215-217 AD: the Father is thanked for his beloved Son Jesus Christ ‘whom in your good pleasure you sent from heaven into the womb of a virgin…’ (in G.R. Evans and Robert Wright, The Anglican Tradition 1991, p.15). cf. Romans 8.2: ‘for God…by sending his own son…’

ie. Mission is fundamentally all about the relationships within the holy Trinity: sending of the Son by the Father, and also for the sending of the Holy Spirit by the Father and the Son. (see further Bosch p.390)

Recent Ecumenical recoveries (i) Karl Barth (1886-1968) and the Willingen Conference of the International Missionary Council, 1952: ‘The missionary movement of which we are a part has its source in the Triune God himself. Out of the depths of his love for us, the Father has sent forth his own beloved Son to reconcile all things to himself…

…We who have been chosen in Christ… are committed to full participation in his redeeming mission. There is no participation in Christ without participation in his mission to the world. That by which the Church receives its existence is that by which it is also given its world mission.’

(ii) Second Vatican Council of the RC Church (1962-65): ‘the pilgrim Church is missionary by her very nature… it has its origins in the mission of the Son and Holy Spirit… [ missionary activity is ] nothing else, and nothing less, than the manifestation of God’s plan, its epiphany and realisation in the world and in history’ (Ad Gentes 2, 9)

Hence mission as missio Dei ‘The Latin term is necessary because it holds a depth and power that English translation cannot capture: the mission of God, the mission that belongs to God, the mission that flows from the heart of God.

Missio Dei speaks of the overflowing of the love

of God’s being and nature into God’s purposeful activity in the world.’ (Paul Avis, A Ministry shaped by Mission, 2005 p.5)

Jürgen Moltmann: ‘It is not the church that has a mission of salvation to fulfil in the world; it is the mission of the Son and the Spirit through the Father that includes the church.’ (The Church in the Power of the Spirit, 1977, p.65)

Bosch: ‘To participate in mission is to participate in the movement of God’s love toward people, since God is a fountain of sending love.’ (Transforming Mission, p.390)

So mission is about everything!

Bosch: ‘Since God’s concern is for the entire world, this should also be the scope of the missio Dei. It affects all people in all aspects of their existence. Mission is God’s turning to the world in respect of creation, care, redemption and consummation… …It takes place in ordinary human history, not exclusively in and through the church…

The missio Dei is God’s activity, which embraces both the church and the world, and in which the church may be privileged to participate.’ (p.391)

Does this affect how you view the ways churches are engaging in mission at the moment?

Going deeper… If Mission is rooted in the Trinity, it is all about human and divine relationship Jesus reveals the quality of this relationship when he addresses God as ‘Abba’ eg. Mark 14.36

This reveals God to be a loving parent ie. someone who does not exist on his own but only in relationship with a child, who is Jesus himself: you cannot be such a parent without the existence of a child: you cannot be such a child without the existence of a parent.

So Christ reveals the familial nature of God the Father and the Son (and in the Upper Room, the Spirit) and therefore the existence of the Trinity, a mutual participation of three persons.

ie. in the Trinity there are distinct contributions but unity at the same time: you cannot have one without the other

Paul Fiddes uses a Greek word 'perichoresis', first used by Pseudo-Cyril in the C6th, then by John of Damascus in the C8th meaning ‘reciprocity and exchange in the mutual indwelling of the persons’ Paul Fiddes, Participating in God: A Pastoral Doctrine of the Trinity, DLT (2000)

Each person permeates and coinheres with the others without confusion. There is a

perichoresis of the persons of the Trinity within

the unity of their substance. (p.71) not persons in relationship, but persons as relationship (p.50).


a guiding analogy for human living - persons truly exist through their participation in each other. don’t see people as being on the 'ends' of relationship. see them as constituted in 'sharing, in speech and worship, in the flow of relationships themselves' (p.72)

ie. when people in relationship with each other reaching out in friendship, risk, challenge, service, sacrifice… they find a new identity in sharing their lives with another their lives are being conformed, in this way, to the life of the Trinity.

But they will not only be like God: they will also participate within God's life itself – they will be joining the divine inter-relationship itself.

Within the life of the Church Fiddes: ‘communion in the body of Christ is not just a model of the Trinity, but a means of

entering the relational movements of the

triune God'. there is a reality of participation which allows the people 'to share in God rather than attempting to observe God'. (pp.88-89)


when people are in a relationship with each other reaching out in friendship, risk, challenge, service, sacrifice… finding a new identity in sharing their lives within the body of Christ they are participating in and extending the missio


Putting this into practice

Christian mission expressed and extended above all through the quality of the relationships in church and between church and community Hence people need to come first – giving each other ‘the time of day’, valuing each other as people (more than as means to an end)... A subtle but profound shift esp. for churches dominated by strategies, action plans, paying the share, filling the pews... etc.

(iii) How can one learn from the other?

How can churches currently engaged in mission learn from recent developments in the theology of mission, and how can theology of mission learn from recent experience of mission?