Archive for the ‘General’ Category

WCC statement to influence thinking in mission education

Posted on: October 29th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
General, Reviews

By Mark Oxbrow

 

WCC News service

A World Council of Churches (WCC) consultation in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa has discussed creative ways of using the WCC statement in mission education and curriculum. The WCC statement, titled “Together towards life: Mission and evangelism in changing landscapes”, seeks a renewed understanding and practice of mission and evangelism.

A number of examples from the work of churches and educational institutions on the use of the WCC mission statement were highlighted at the consultation.

Organized by the WCC Commission on World Mission and Evangelism (CWME), the consultation was held from 20 to 24 October. The event brought together some 30 participants, including representatives of the CWME, missiologists, church leaders and mission practitioners.

The consultation was hosted by the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.

Prof. Roderick Hewitt and Dr Chammah Kaunda, who have used the mission statement as a resource at church leadership training in Swaziland, shared their experiences. They said that with “powerful and transformative dynamism the statement offered a new approach to education”. This is because the “missional position of the church in the age of secularism is situated at the margins of the society. The transformation never genuinely happens at the centre but at the margins where people are seeking ‘fullness of life’,” added Hewitt.

“I am convinced that using the mission statement in the curriculum is crucial in influencing the thinking on mission,” said Prof. Kirsteen Kim. She said the “nature of mission studies needs to be couched in a pneumatological framework and informed by the world Christianity paradigm”.

“An urgent challenge facing the churches today is the formation of mission-minded leadership. The good news is that help is on the way,” said Prof. Kenneth Ross. “The Pietermaritzburg consultation has launched a process that aims to deliver a ground-breaking mission studies curriculum, based on the widely acclaimed mission statement,” Ross added.

Dr Atola Longkumer commented that “organizing a consultation in Pietermaritzburg is significant as the mission statement is used by the University of KwaZulu-Natal”. She said the “academic faculty and mission practitioners at the university have used diverse insights offered by the statement, widening perspectives and understanding of mission”.

“As the vision provided by the statement becomes part of the church’s mission, we will be in a whole lot of ‘trouble’ and joy,” said Rev. Dr Peter Cruchley-Jones. “As I think about bureaucracies, anxieties and vanities of the church, I pray most devoutly: come Holy Spirit! Transform us for life,” he said.

Rev. Dr Jooseop Keum, the CWME secretary, said that the commission is now focusing on the contextualization of the mission statement by developing location-specific training modules and curriculum on missional formation. He said “these resources are to be used in congregations, theological schools and training centres for mission practitioners for the next three years, while we make our way towards the next World Mission Conference in 2018”.

Read the CWME statement on mission and evangelism

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Anglican Witness, October 29, 2014

Vancouver event tackles Christian Zionism

Posted on: October 28th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
General, Reviews

 

By Neale Adams

 

Criticism of Christian Zionism is not an attack on the country of Israel, explains Gary Burge, a professor of New Testament studies at Wheaton College. Photo: Neale Adams

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Christian Zionism is a theologically-based belief about how the world will end that would likely be dismissed as a strange doctrine few Anglicans would be concerned about—if it didn’t affect Canadian and U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.

Gary Burge, a professor of New Testament studies at Wheaton College, near Chicago, told two public meetings held in the Vancouver area in October that the problem Christian Zionism creates is that it promotes a one-sided view of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

“Israel always gets a free pass,” Burge told his audiences, first at the College of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford and later at St. Mary’s Kerrisdale in Vancouver.

The Canadian Friends of Sabeel, an organization that promotes the perspective of the Palestinian Christian Community, sponsored the gatherings. The Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center is based in Jerusalem. It is associated with 10 national “Friends” groups besides the one in Canada.

Christian Zionism is promoted mostly by a group of fundamentalist evangelical writers who maintain that the return of the Jews to the Holy Land and the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 are in accordance with biblical prophecy.

In 2013, General Synod passed a resolution that committed the Anglican Church of Canada “to explore and challenge theologies and beliefs, such as Christian Zionism, which support the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.”

Burge at both meetings said Christian Zionism was based on interpretations—or misinterpretations—of the Book of Revelation and other biblical passages. Christian Zionist preachers see the founding of modern Israel as a signal that the end of the world is near. To be on the right side of a coming apocalypse, nations and their people must support Israel unquestioningly.

Christian Zionism is one reason Americans show greater sympathy for Israel, and far less for the plight of Palestinians, Burge said. Speaking from a liberal evangelical viewpoint, Burge listed passages from scripture that, he said, discredit the theology of Christian Zionism. The ethical demands of several prophets in the Bible requires just treatment of all people—particularly orphans, widows and “foreigners.” He argued that in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul’s writings reject “territorial theology.”

A supporter of Israeli and Canadian foreign policy at the St. Mary’s meeting asked Burge, “How can there be peace, reconciliation and justice and two states side by side, when all the Arab nations refuse to accept Israel’s right to [be] a state at all, continue to raise the next generation to hate Israel from kindergarten on, and would probably kill any leader [as] they did with Anwar Sadat who would seek to make peace with Israel?”

Burge replied that he felt Arab intransigence was “really overplayed.” Egypt and Jordan are Arab states that co-operate with Israel, he said. “But there are countries like Lebanon and Syria that have real political grievances, and until those get resolved with Israel—like the Golan Heights—you’re never really going to have real reconciliation with those two.”

Burge insisted that criticism of Christian Zionism is not an attack on the country of Israel. “Israel has the right to exist like any country,” he said, adding that he felt most Arab countries accepted that the Israeli state was the “current reality.”

Also speaking at the two gatherings was Prof. Ron Dart of the University of the Fraser Valley. Dart traced support for Zionism in Canada from the mid-1800s to the present day. Christian Zionism has been located on the West Coast, in Alberta, and in Ontario. Some members of the Conservative Party have accepted the doctrine, which explained, in part, the Harper government’s strong pro-Israel stance, he said.

“Many of the [Conservative] MPs…have grown up in conservative evangelical backgrounds with that very strong commitment to defending the Jewish people. Of course, you want to say, ‘Who wouldn’t? The Jewish people have suffered in the Diaspora.’ But to support them to the exclusion of the Palestinians and others raises obviously some of the serious problems that we face today,” said Dart.

The two meetings, which attracted about 200 people in total, were preliminary to a larger conference on Christian Zionism that will take place in Vancouver April 23 to 25, and will feature Burge and Dart along with Palestinian and Jewish speakers.

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Anglican Journal News, October 28, 2014

“Dignity, belonging, forgiveness essential to a healthy family”

Posted on: October 28th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
General, Reviews

“Churches are reinforcing the family as the primary place for human growth and development and for the celebration of human dignity.” Photo Credit: Shutterstock _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

From the International Anglican Family Network

Stories gathered by the Anglican Communion’s International Anglican Family Network (IAFN) have highlighted how human dignity is being championed and advanced in families around the globe.

The stories, from a variety of contexts across the Anglican Communion, make up the Network’s latest newsletter and, according to IAFN’s chair, Bishop David Rossdale, together point to three foundations upon which ‘family’ is built and secured.

“These are the gifts of dignity, belonging and forgiveness,” he said, “each being essential to a healthy family in which all can flourish. The stories point to the need for these foundations to be championed by the Christian community as God-given characteristics of grace.

“They also illustrate how churches are reinforcing the family as the primary place for human growth and development and for the celebration of human dignity.”

The newsletter articles include the story of a South African student surprised and excited by a new understanding of positive masculinity and the contributions that fathers can make. Another describes projects in Madagascar seeking to empower women to help their families develop and flourish.

Articles from Australia and Scotland describe work to help children and youth establish respectful relationships. The Christian organisation Viva Uganda shows how overcoming difficulties in registering births contributes to a sense of belonging as well as formal identity.

“In order to thrive, families need to be safe and feel secure”, added Bishop Rossdale. Stories from Peru, Vanuatu and a Syrian refugee camp are offered as glimpses of the threat to families from poverty, war and global pressures.

“An article from Rwanda shows how a Mothers’ Union parenting and child protection programme is supporting parents in giving children a safe environment where they can flourish. The Family and Safeguarding will be a key theme for the Family Network in the months ahead.”

The newsletter ‘Family: the Gift of Dignity’ can be downloaded as a PDF or read on line at http://iafn.anglicancommunion.org/newsletters/2014/september/index.cfm.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS), October 28, 2014

History made, as Anglicans, Oriental Orthodox agree on Christ’s incarnation

Posted on: October 28th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
General, Reviews

 

By ACNS staff

Senior theologians in Anglican Communion and Oriental Orthodox Churches recently made history by signing an agreement on their mutual understanding of Christ’s incarnation.

This was not just a minor point of theology, rather it was a subject that divided the Church following the Council of Chalcedon* in 451 AD, leaving the Oriental Orthodox Churches separated from the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Church of Rome.

The work to reconcile these branches of the Christian family on the question of how the two natures, human and divine, were united in one human being: Jesus Christ began in earnest in the 1990s.

By 2002 an Agreed Statement on Christology had been prepared by the Anglican-Oriental Orthodox International Commission (AOOIC) and sent to the participating Churches and an updated statement was recirculated in 2013. By the October meeting in Cairo, AOOIC members were able to finalise the document and Bishop Geoffrey Rowell and His Eminence Metropolitan Bishoy of Damietta signed on behalf of their Churches.

This statement, which is a significant step of reconciliation, will now be sent to “the responsible authorities of the Oriental Orthodox Churches and the Anglican Communion for their consideration and action”.

Click here to read the Agreed Statement on Christology

Click here to read the Communique from the meeting of the Anglican-Oriental Orthodox International Commission that met in Cairo, Egypt from 13-17 October, 2014.

Notes

*The Council of Chalcedon was a highly influential church council held from 8 October to 1 November, 451 AD, at Chalcedon (a city of Bithynia in Asia Minor), on the Asian side of the Bosporus.

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Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS), October 28, 2014

120 Pioneers gather in Oxford to discuss mission spirituality and create poetry

Posted on: October 21st, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
General, Reviews

 

 

Photo Credit: CMS

[CMS] On Tuesday (14 October) 120 pioneers met at the Church Mission Society in Oxford for their second annual conversations day on pioneering.

This year the focus was on mission spirituality. The contributors represented a wide range of theological perspectives and included Catholic contextual theologian from Chicago Steve Bevans, Ordained Pioneer Minister in Portishead, Tina Hodgett, and author and poet, Michael Mitton.

The day began with Steve Bevans outlining spirituality as “a reservoir from which a person or a community can draw to motivate action, to keep on track, to bolster commitment and to avoid discouragement when times get rough.”

He suggested a number of ways in which this could be done which included identifying specific passages of scripture that might guide and inform one’s missionary endeavours, drawing inspiration from missionary heroes and heroines, becoming aware of the cultural assets and liabilities brought to pioneering in mission and developing spiritual practices that sustain.

There were workshops on St Francis of Assisi as a new monastic pioneer, how to nurture an active spirituality and exploring metaphor as a means of shaping community.

After lunch, Tina Hodgett used her experience of working with pregnant women to talk about a spirituality of birth and how this demonstrates major life changes are opportunities to engage people afresh with big questions of faith.

More workshops followed on reconciling being and doing, how the Eucharist can be used to rediscover and reimagine community and the gift African spirituality is to the individualistic and rationalistic West, led by Harvey Kwiyani of Missio Africanus.

Michael Mitton ended the sessions with an exposition of 1 Peter 3:18-19 and a picture of Christ preaching good news in Hades. He talked of pioneers needing to confront the shadows in their own souls, as Jesus did in the temptations, in order to take love and hope to the dark places of our world.

The conference concluded with worship and the performance of a poem that had been especially written from words submitted by attendees by Martin Daws, the young people’s laureate for Wales. About the miracle of newness being born out of desire, vulnerability and struggle, it perfectly encapsulated the many layers of pioneering spirituality that had been uncovered throughout the day.

Jonny Baker, director of mission education for CMS, said after the event, “It was a rich and diverse exploration and celebration of spirituality that fuels and sustains mission. It was a privilege to hear the wisdom and maturity of those who have followed Christ into alien cultures, which included students on the pioneer course here at CMS.”

Website: CMS Pioneer Mission Leadership Training

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Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS), October 21, 2014

Wrong Number, Right Message

Posted on: October 13th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
General, Reviews

 

We’ve all done it. Inverted two numbers, tapped the wrong contact, and ended with a surprise when the ‘wrong’ person answered our phone call. Almost always, this is an unremarkable event, but in Peace River, Alberta a wrong number led to a very special Back to Church Sunday for the parishioners of St. James Anglican Cathedral.

In 2010, the parish decided to try Back to Church Sunday for the first time. This is a special Sunday where members of the community are encouraged to ask someone new to join them at church. Dean and rector of St. James, the Very Reverend Dr. Iain Luke, turned to those he knew would have an enthusiasm for this small mission. He called to mind one member of St. James who had “always been a keen inviter, so I was counting on her to be an example.” An example she was!

She prayed about it and then settled on who she’d like to invite for the inaugural Back to Church Sunday. When the spirited inviter phoned the person she had in mind, she—accidentally and providentially—dialed the wrong number.

As it happens in a town of 6,000, the parishioner recognized the voice at the other end of the line anyway. The two chatted away and then, remembering the original intent of her call, the parishioner extended the invitation she had set out to extend.

Those simple words of hospitality landed upon the right ears at the right time. The invited family had been away from church for some time and were trying to find a way back.

The family came on Back to Church Sunday. Then again the following week. They came for their third consecutive week, which fell on Thanksgiving weekend, at the insistence of their daughter who exclaimed, “But we’ve never missed!” Luke laughs and says, “I guess there’s some truth that in the church if you do something twice it becomes a tradition.”

The meeting of this family and the parish was meaningful for all. The new congregants brought with them great talents in music and drama, and new connections into the community where the church had none before. People in the parish saw the impact of invitation and were transformed as a result. “It’s become much more part of the DNA of our parish,” reflects Luke, “because we know what can happen if we do.”

Though St. James carefully prepared for that one special Sunday, the effect rippled throughout the liturgical year and lingers today. The spirit of a special day of invitation and hospitality is now something that permeates much of their life together. “It made us more focussed on who’s around us and how we can engage them in God and the faith in our lives,” says Luke, “This is about changing us. The purpose is to transform our own culture so that people can show up any time.”

Now, a few years out from this wrong-number tale, the leadership at St. James continues to nurture the fruits of this first Sunday. One way this work continues is by encouraging invitations to regular and special events at the church, like concerts or Holy Week liturgies.

One might wonder if in a town of just 6,000 people if invitations might quickly reach a saturation point. However, Luke notes that Peace River is a community of transition, with people and families coming for jobs and then moving on. In this kind of town, the church can offer stronger connections to the people around you, intergenerational bonds for families who have left grandparents behind, and spiritual wealth in the midst of the material comforts many in Peace River know.

In the midst of the anxiety around invitation and building community, Luke insists it’s not hard to reach out to others in this way. “It’s not the response that matters, but the asking. It is part of what the church needs to be now.”

The Back to Church Sunday initiative started in the United Kingdom ten years ago, as a way to encourage churchgoers to extend an invitation to others to attend church with them. As a result of the evolution of this ministry, 2014 saw resources emerge for the Season of Invitation, which seeks to extend the spirit of hospitality throughout the fall months . . . and beyond!

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Anglican Church of Canada, News from General Synod, October 10. 2014

Toronto parish participates in Nuit Blanche

Posted on: October 13th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
General, Reviews

By André Forget

 

The Rev. Maggie Helwig reads from Dennis Lee’s poetry collection Testament while Kristin Ostensen sings as a part of a Nuit Blanche performance art installation at Toronto’s St. Stephen-in-the-Fields on Oct. 4.  Photo: André Forget


Midnight on Saturday is not a time many people would traditionally associate with poetry. But then, there was much that was not traditional about The Composition Engine, a performance art installation curated by Toronto’s Anglican Church of St. Stephen-in-the-Fields on Oct. 4 in conjunction with Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, an annual all-night arts festival that takes place across downtown Toronto.

The installation, first created by Peter Drobac (choir director at St. Silouan the Athonite Orthodox Mission Parish) and the Rev. Maggie Helwig (who is also a poet and novelist) in 2012, came from a simple question: what would you get if you had a recital or poetry reading where the audience could select and mix different pieces of music or text to create a living, evolving composition? Would it be beautiful, or would it just be a mess?

As it turns out, what you get is a transcendently beautiful mess. Walking into The Composition Engine at St. Stephen’s on Saturday night, audience members were surrounded by readers, singers and musicians positioned in various places around the sanctuary. Each performer stood next to a lamp, and audience members could activate the musicians or readers by turning on their lamps, or silence them by turning them off. The effect was powerful, as different melodies combined and were interwoven with echoing lines of poetry.

2014 is the first year that The Composition Engine has been held in St. Stephen’s Church (in past years, it was held at the chapel of Trinity College at the University of Toronto), and when asked about the changes that come with the new venue, Maggie Helwig, the priest-in-charge at St. Stephen’s, noted that people seemed more aware of the place’s sacred nature. “Trinity Chapel people seem to treat it just as space. Here, there is a little more of a sense of people being a little more nervous to move around.”

The way people interacted with what they were hearing was a little different as well.

Helwig acknowledged that The Composition Engine might challenge the assumptions of some audience members about what kind of poetry should be read in a church. “I’ve read through Dennis Lee’s Testament twice [so far tonight] and through most of Tim Lilburn’s Tourist to Ecstasy” she said, noting that while Dennis Lee is a practising Christian and that Tim Lilburn was a Jesuit when he wrote his book, “both of them also use a lot of erotic language—a lot of what would sound, I think, to most people, like sacrilegious or blasphemous language.”

Maggie Sulc, a Toronto playwright who attends St. Stephen’s Saturday night service and performed as a reader in the installation, also talked about the power of using texts not frequently heard in church; for example, American poet Carolyn Forché’s 1994 collection The Angel of History. “I didn’t expect it to, but it’s really affecting me emotionally. It’s all about the Holocaust and atomic bombs. Pain, death, and genocide…Even though it’s kind of odd to throw myself into that emotionally, I think it’s more effective and makes the whole Engine work better.”

Helwig, who estimates that around 500 people passed through the installation over the course of the evening, was eloquent about the importance of art as a way for churches to communicate with the wider world. “The church has been, and can still be, a space for artistic exploration which has real aesthetic credibility and isn’t just a devotional product; it means taking the risk of moving out of comfort zones on both sides, but that’s what both art and faith should be about, anyway.”

So, will The Composition Engine be coming back next year? Helwig was unsure. “Something will happen next year for sure. We’re still playing with this; we’re still looking for possibilities in this—so it may happen again next year, or we may come up with another idea.” _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Anglican Journal News, October 8, 2014

‘In remembrance of me’

Posted on: September 10th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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By Fred Hiltz

 

This column first appeared in the September issue of the Anglican Journal.

This summer I had some extraordinary experiences of eucharist in stately cathedral churches, in a teepee set up in a gymnasium in Kingfisher Lake, Ont., and several lovely old parish churches celebrating milestone anniversaries in the service of the gospel.

One celebration I’ll never forget was in the outdoor chapel of St. Francis at the Sorrento Centre on the shores of beautiful Lake Shuswap in the interior of British Columbia.

It was Friday of the third week of programming. Our work, our learnings and our prayers were to be offered up at this eucharist. As everyone gathered, there was an air of anticipation.

Just before the celebration began, the chair of the board of the Sorrento Centre broke the news that its much-loved executive director, Christopher Lind, had died earlier in the day. Many were moved to tears. Chris had helped the centre renew its mission as “a place of transformation—a place for learning, healing and belonging” and had launched a capital campaign with an eye to “The Next Fifty Years.” 

I was invited to lead the congregation in prayers and when I finished, the beautiful “Pie Jesu” from Fauré’s Requiem was sung. The Liturgy of the Word and a reflection concluded with everyone singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

At the offertory, a blanket was spread on the ground in front of the altar and the children were invited to come forward and sit. As they came, the priest gave them either a plate of bread or a cup of wine. Kneeling on the blanket with them, he was barely visible, but we could hear him praying the Great Thanksgiving. As he came to the words of institution, Jesus’ words at the Last Supper, we could see a host of little arms holding up the gifts. As he prayed for the Spirit’s blessing that the bread and wine become for us the body and blood of Christ, the children, with great reverence, elevated the gifts. 

When the prayer was finished they returned to their families, beaming!  After all, they had helped us recall the love of Jesus laid down for all.

Styled as a picnic eucharist, this liturgy had all the flow of good order and every space for the Spirit’s whispering and hovering over bread and wine. It had all the grace of a place for everyone at this sacred meal and all the truth about Jesus’ love for children and their delight in the wonders of God’s love.

Having received holy communion that day, I was moved to ponder afresh how great a mystery it is, and cherish anew this food so awesome and so sweet.

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Anglican Journal News, September 5, 2014