One of the most powerful and symbolic moments of the most recent Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in Jerusalem happened at the beginning of the first day. The conference MCs had us welcome each other by continent. They had those from Europe stand up (dozens stood) while the rest of the world said, “We welcome you in Jesus name.” Likewise, others stood: those from North America (a few hundred); Oceania (a few hundred); Asia (dozens); South America (dozens). But, when Africa was invited to stand, half (or more) of the 1,950 participants stood up. This is Africa’s moment at the center of God’s Mission.
Over time, the vortex of the Church’s energy for mission has shifted from the Near East (Jerusalem and Antioch), to Europe, and then to North America. But in our day, the momentum of mission has shifted to Africa (and the Global South, more broadly). The days of mission being defined as white people taking the Gospel to people of color is over. We are living in a world where the Gospel is going from the nations to the nations. Former mission fields have become mission forces. That means that our model for mission needs to shift from paternalism to partnership. It also means that the distinction between what happens locally and globally is breaking down. Our culture has become a mission field.
The Church participates in God’s Mission in two fundamental ways: The Great Commandment and the Great Commission. When asked for clarification regarding what exactly He meant by “Love your neighbor as yourself,” Jesus told the story about the Samaritan who helped the Jew he found wounded and bleeding on the side of the road to Jericho. At the heart of the Great Commandment, then, is the ability to see the needs of others and to make our resources available to meet those needs. It is this love that fulfills the prophetic vision of a world filled with Shalom, God’s peace. In missional contexts (both locally and globally), we often call this impulse of compassion “Relief and Development.” We will continue to develop compassion partnerships with dioceses and provinces throughout the world. We will also continue to find ways of expressing practically God’s love in our neighborhoods.
The other way we fulfill God’s Mission is through evangelism and discipleship, the Great Commission. We sow the seeds of the Gospel and look for those in whom the Gospel takes root; those who bear fruit 30, 60, and 100 fold. We plant churches in living rooms, in store fronts, in community centers, in high school auditoriums, in buildings specially dedicated to worship and mission, or (often in Africa) under trees. Again, the distinction between local and global is breaking down. All over the world, the Church has awakened to our need to proclaim the Gospel winsomely, patiently, and boldly. It’s just that the Global South has quite a head start in knowing how to do it!
As we continue to be involved in what God is doing globally through GAFCON, my prayer is that we will join Him locally in His Mission through our fulfilling of the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. While the global missional vortex might be in Africa, I pray that the local missional vortex will be in Anglican congregations.
Bishop Jim has also written a series of blog articles as he journeyed through the conference summarizing what he experienced and felt. You're welcome to read those articles: