Cross Cultural Missions!

BISHOP NAZIR ALI SPEAKS

* Mission as presence has been ascribed to St. Francis, to take the gospel to different places and use words where necessary. Be present itself is mission in some sense.

* In the Anglican world we also have mission as presence arising in two ways.

There has been an Anglican thinking on the incarnation. For the church has to be the presence of the church in different places and people. There is a theological commitment that is incarnational. Secondly and practically it arises from the parish system as it emerged in England. Two men Theodare of Tarsus in Asia and Augustine the man who became the ABC created the parish system. Also his companion Adrian the Afrikcano created the parish system of the CofE that has now existed for several hundreds of years.

* Both Roman and Celtic missionaries worked at the same time and we have much to learn from the Celtic aspect of Christianity in England. They had both freedom and spontaneity.

* What the mission of Augustine and Adrian was a structure that gave the presence of the church in every community. Christian presence not limited to the Anglican Communion.

* Anglican chaplaincies in different parts of the world. “I am familiar with the gulf. When oil was found in Gulf States Anglican chaplaincies got a new lease on life. They became a hot bed of Christian activity.

* In Abu Dhabi more than 24 congregations worship in the same building from Pentecostals to Oriental Orthodox. People had to share vestments. Chalcedon and non-Chalcedon churches who had been out of communion for over 1500 years found themselves sharing a cover. They participated in one universal church, which St. Paul described at Jerusalem.

* This is receptor-oriented revelation – revelation designed for those to receive it. When people hear the Good News of Jesus Christ there is always in their experience the belief to which the gospel latches on.

* How is this identification? The answer is dialogue. The theological basis of dialogue must be Trinitarian. We can engage with any people in dialogue because all people are made in God’s image although that image has been obscured and damaged by original sin it has not been destroyed by sin. It is still possible to evoke something in people by the evangelist engaging in dialogue with him.

* The eternal word becoming incarnate in Jesus Christ and he is the one to which every knee will bow. John 1:9 is the burden of the 4th chapter of what John is saying. Even if people are turning away from Him it can be the basis of dialogue. That the HS is at work is also Johanine…it is convincing the world of sin and righteousness and judgment. Note I said convince not convict because the word use by John in Chapter 16 has a long background in Greek. It is used in the platonic dialogue. The master brings the student to truth. Presence, identification and dialogue go together. That aspect of mission is to affirm and be positive to people.

* The prophetic aspect of mission is that all share in the fallenness of human kind.

* Those who think of mission think of Christ in culture who sees man as fallen in culture. Others see Christ as beyond culture and others transcending cultural limitations. Another view is Christ who is against culture.

* Archbishop Gitari (Kenya) said at the 1988 Lambeth Conference that when gospel came to his people there was something the gospel upheld and celebrated. People’s commitment was to community to celebrate together, to support one another in adversity.

* Another example was more controversial. Polygamy. The early missionaries in Africa compelled them to give up all but one of their wives in order to be baptized. The result was the destitution of the women who were left. Some fell into prostitution. So Gitari suggested that for one-generation only polygamous men along with wives and children lived together and gradually as the gospel work took hold monogamy became the Christian standard.

* What the gospel would not tolerate was cattle rustling and the practice of killing twins. Twins were regarded as a curse and had to be killed.

* In East Africa the custom of the local ruler to use young boys for homosexual acts. The Gospel could not allow the continuation of such a practice and many of the Christian young men who refused to be used this way were among the first martyrs of the church. This gives us the background of why the African church has responded to what has happened in the US.

* Alongside the affirmation as to what is God given in nature, the gospel always is able to resist what is of sin and human rebellion and greed and the desire to satisfy our appetites.

* Another aspect of Christian mission is Christian service. The son of man came not to serve but to give his life a ransom for many. Christianity is about a self-emptying way of life. Self-giving is to the point of self-emptying. Alongside service there is also action. We have to act on behalf of people who cannot act for themselves. My work of advocacy is for the persecuted church and I speak to the governments in their own country and in international bodies in the media. Acting on behalf of them is basic to our understanding of what is mission.

* We must speak to the injustice to indigenous people of Latin America. I speak of my work with Christians in Pakistan. Without advocacy of those who suffer injustice, without working for justice without making sure that the alienation we cannot say or mission is hope. Presence, identification, dialogue as service, as action and evangelism.

* Why should we engage in evangelism? The gospel begins in remembrance about what we are supposed to be. Jesus is looking for the lost sheep. There is amnesia we don’t know who we are and where we are. The opposite of amnesia is anamuesis. It has to do with remembering who we are, what God wants us to be and to remind God of his mercies.

* Remembrance leads to repentance. Dr. Kenneth Bailey, who is an expert in this in its Middle East understanding, has the son coming to himself, but that is not full repentance. The remembering leads to the repenting and the repentance is complete when the father goes out to meet him. He wants to be a servant but the father invests in him the sonship he had lost. The gospel leads to fulfillment of authentic aspirations all human beings have. When we come to Christ all God’s purposes come to be fulfilled. I have met many who have come to Christ from many ideologies and capitulation and reassurance is basic to the gospel. When we put our trust in Christ we can be sure God will fulfill his will for us.

* Jesus said all that the father has given me, I have lost nothing We can have confidence in Christ for our final destiny. This is unique to the gospel.

* Other religions have no such assurance. I had an uncle who became a pious Muslim. He had been a distinguished civil servant. I asked him what the practice of his religion was leading too. All he could say is I hope God accepts me. That is not so with us. We know in putting our trust in Christ and what he has done for us he has opened the way of friendship with God and how in Christ we find God in Christ finds us and we find ourselves.

* Anglicans always try to escape intentional evangelism. Just because we have a service there is no sharing the gospel in words and we need to find ways to invite them to put their trust in Jesus Christ. The evangelistic dimension should not be used as an excuse to duck out of personal witness and also ecclesial witness.

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