“Hope and Change in Mutual Mission: Call to Action” Towards Mission 2010 Mission for the 21st Century A Keynote Address to Church World Service Missiological Convocation October 21, 2008, South Bend, Indiana The Rev. Dr. Elizabeth S. Tapia “Hopelessness is a form of silence of denying the world and fleeing from it.”
Paulo Freire “The task of a Christian is not to lead a pious life, but to be a witness to Christ in the world through life and action.” Dietrich Bonheoffer. Mabuhay, Buenas Dias, Asante, Ping-An, Peace of Christ, Shalom/Salaam to you all! “We are in mission, all of us, because we participate in the mission of God who has sent us into a fragmented and broken world. We are united in the belief that we are ‘called together in Christ to be reconciling and healing communities.” These words came from a Letter From the 2005 Athens Conference on World Mission and Evangelism. These words dwelt in my heart since I was privileged to attend that mission conference held in the spiritually rich Orthodox context. I was particularly moved when the conference began outdoors, on the shores of the Aegean Sea, with 600 people from 105 countries gathered to welcome each other in love, and to welcome a small boat that docked with a particular task: to deliver, with love, a gift from the churches in Jerusalem. And what was that gift? It was a huge olive-wood cross, carved from the fragments of the trees uprooted due to building of the wall separating Palestinians from Israelis and other Palestinians. It was a “sign of both suffering and hope.” That cross, representing the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, became a sign of reconciliation between a divided people in the land of the Holy. Sisters and Brothers in Christ, I believe mutual mission can lead to mutual transformation. Those who are engaged in partnership and mutuality in mission
transform each other under the guidance of the Triune God. Doing mission together in genuine partnership and mutuality with others generates a transformative force needed in this fragmented world. â€œHope and Change in Mutual Mission,â€? the topic chosen by the wise planners of this consultation, became a challenge to me. It elicited many questions in my mind and heart. For example, why a call to action, when all of you are already active in mission and ecumenism? Some of you have been in this for a long period of time and may be contemplating retiring soon. Well done. Yet, no one retires completely from doing mission. Or, maybe some of you are getting tired, discouraged or overwhelmed by the immensity of CWS's mission and responsibility. You just want to take a break, enjoy Saturday Night Live and laugh for a while, while a financial meltdown/economic crisis expands from Wall Street to all streets in the world. My purpose in being with you today is not to give a lecture or to give you a key. I'm here to give a word of encouragement. En cour - In heart. I just hope to remind you to put in your heart in the heart of mission that is proclaiming the unconditional love of God to all peoples and creation. I want to encourage you to reaffirm your commitment to ecumenical partnership. I want to encourage you to let your hearts burn with fire for mission for the sake of the full reign of God in history, in oikos, here in a fragile but precious world. My sharing this morning will include some contextual references, followed by questions for our reflection, and then some models and signs of mutual mission. It will conclude with brief stories and prayer that might inspire us as we care.
Why are we here? We are here because you and I have an important thing to do. This CWS missiological convocation is important. Your presence here is crucial. This consultation, I believe, is a timely contribution to the decentralized centenary celebration of the Edinburgh World Mission Conference. It is related to mission Themes 4 - Mission and Power, 5 Forms of Missionary Engagement, 8 Mission and Unity, as well as theme 9 Mission Spirituality and Authentic Discipleship. I presume that churches represented here have been practicing mutual mission at some level, but I believe thereâ€™s a yearning for an even more mutual and sustainable mission. I want to propose that our hope for and praxis of mutual mission can bring mutual transformation. Living in an interconnected world with connected oceans, one's pain becomes the pain of all; one's joy becomes a communal joy. That's what the Asian tsunami and the Katrina and Ike hurricanes have shown us. Peopleâ€™s lives and situations in many parts of the world do change usâ€Śif we open our eyes, and if we do concrete action. I speak to you as a brown middle-aged Protestant clergywoman from the Philippines who survived poverty, the martial law regime of Marcos, and the colonial aspects of Christendom in the Philippines. I taught in a college and an ecumenical seminary founded and administered by dedicated American missionaries at the turn of 20th century. We were considered a mission field, on the receiving end of missions. I was involved in grassroots movements that work for the dismantling of the Americanist neocolonial hegemony. Now that I have recently migrated to the United States due to family reasons, I have realized that here, in America, lies a huge mission field.
1. Immigrants (are) the new missioners? Filipino/na migrant workers are present in about 90 countries in the world. Ruth who migrated to Italy from Central Phil. in the early 80's has been active in an international church in Rome: in the choir, prayer meetings, providing hospitality to new immigrants, while sending money home. She is one of the thousands of migrant workers who have revived a dying church in Europe. Many Latino/na immigrants and Pentecostals, Koreans, Indians, etc., brought new energy and vida in the life of churches here in America. The USA has now become a mission field. Now the question is how will the churches here witness to the 37.5 million immigrants in the country? The Census Bureau 2007 date says that nearly one in five people living in the US speaks a language at home other than English. As Philip Jenkins rightly observed: "The South has come to North." What is the good news to more than 12 Million â€œundocumented workers" in America that come from Asia, Latin America, Mexico and from Africa? Do we truly welcome the strangers in our midst? "If the church, writes Bishop Linda Lee and Rev. Chester Jones of the UMC, USA, is to continue being a strong force for Christ in the world, congregations and connectional bodies must reach out more to welcome, engage and be influenced by people who are different."i The late Pope John Paul 11 in his Message for the World Day of Migrants and refugees issued this statement: "There is a need for a dialogue between people of different cultures in a context of pluralism that goes beyond mere tolerance that reaches sympathy. We should encourage a mutual fecundation of cultures. This implies reciprocal knowledge and openness between cultures, in a context of true understanding and benevolence."
2. As the vitality and growth of Christianity have shifted from the North to the South, and immigrant churches in US, Canada and Europe are evangelizing America, are there ways we can be in mission together? Who are your partners in mission nowadays? What needs to change in power relationships? Christianity's growth in the Two-Thirds World is characterized by vitality, at the same time of poverty. How do we do mission together in the context of economic injustice and meltdown in an era of the Empire? 3. Furthermore, may I ask? What are your hopes for doing mission in the 21st century? What changes do you wish to make in making mission more mutual, more sustainable and more relevant? How do we move with an eschatological hope and practical mission in the midst of domestic problems, world wide financial recession, ecological crisis and increasing global violence? What kind of action is called for? Would it not be presumptuous on my part to issue a call to action when I believe you are already engaged in doing mission? 4. The personal is missional. Paraphrasing a feminist principle that "the personal is political,â€? I say the personal is missional. I am not an expert in mission. I am a student of mission. I am passionate about doing mission, not because my formal theological training started when I was a girl of seven attending a Methodist Sunday School. There, I learned about Jesus in Sunday school: in Filipino: Mahal ni Hesus ang lahat ng mga bata means Jesus loves all children of the world. In my youth group, I learned that "love is not love until you give it away". That Jesus listened to the cry of the poor and healed the sick, and since Jesus is the friend of all, I am invited to befriend all.
Growing up in a brood of ten in a small village in Central Philippines, with very little material resources, I learned early on four principles of survival: maybe my parents thought it was cheaper by the dozen!. My father, a fisherman turned laborer, was Roman Catholic, that explains the number; my mother, the unpaid CEO of our home, was Protestant, that explains the work ethic! When the river and Manila Bay from which my father was fishing became polluted, all fishing folks lost their jobs. This led to unemployment and displacement. We barely survived. From experience, I learned four principles of survival: a) Sharing is not an option. It is an obligation. b) When someone is sick or in need, don’t just stand there. Offer help. c) When in doubt, look for direction: pray and consult with others. d) If your neighbor or your sister/brother is hurting, stop talking. Do something. I offer these simple principles for your consideration and adaptation for doing mission in the 21st century. 5. Doing Mission is contextual. We live in an Era of a New Empire (US imperial power). We live in financially unstable condition due to corruption and greed. National and Global crises exist. The 21st century is marked by a world that is, in the words of Thomas Friedman, "Hot, Flat and Crowded.” Mindanao War creates refugees in the Philippines. The National election in US, will be watched by millions around the world, because the result of one day Nov. 4 elections affect other nations for a long time. Climate Change is a given. What is not given is how we can reverse the almost midnight point to the world's possible annihilation. "…a new politics of hatred and intolerance is arising from the growing economic insecurity and a sense of shrinking
space for survival…" - Vandana Shiva, Earth Democracy, Living Democracy. With this contextual background, how are we to speak of mutual mission? I leave you to grapple with this. 6. Voices from Asia: I come from Southeast Asia. Asia, the birthplace of a majority of religions in the world, is so rich culturally and spiritually, yet so poor economically and ecologically. Asia is restless. It is in turmoil. As I cannot speak for people of Asia; listen to the voices of Christian leaders in Asia that met in Bangladesh last month: “The Asian turmoil is manifested in poverty, the market economy, globalization, authoritarian regimes and hegemony of nations over others which further give rise to the continuing violation of human rights, the rise of religious fundamentalism and other forms of oppression with the minorities, women and children as primary victims, not to mention the environment.” Their call to Action: “pay attention to the importance of inter-religious dialogue, solidarity and cooperation, the widening of human rights concerns specially for indigenous peoples, women and youth, and those affected by the HIV and AIDS and other healthy issues…to place premium on ecumenical leadership development.”ii Some models of Mutual Mission (in Asia come from) (due to limited time only one of these was mentioned in the presentation): A) The Christian Conference of Asia. The Christian Conference of Asia is working together with the Student Christian Movement, WSCF-Asia, the YMCA and YWCA Asia, the Regional Ecumenical Groups, and the Federation of Asian Bishops Conference (Roman Catholic). Recently, solidarity visits and interreligious dialogues have been strengthened between Muslims and Christians, and between Hindi-Buddhist-
Christians in the wake of economic and religious conflicts. Mutual mission must transcend any kind of border or barrier. Working for lasting peace in the Philippines, a member of CCA, is being carried out by collaborative efforts of sectoral and grassroots movements; these include Christian-Muslim peace initiatives, Peace for Life, the NCCP and the Ecumenical Bishops' Forum. B) The Swedish Mission Covenant Church (Sweden) and Hindustani Covenant Church in North India. According to Rev. Lennart Renofalt of Sweden, the Swedish Covenant mission in India started in 1940. As the years went by, they have adopted sister church relations where mission and development projects are mutually planned and mutually funded. The two churches do solidarity visits together, and they share and critique each other's program proposals. SCMC is asked by the Hindustani Church to help fund their projects; in turn, the Hindustani church learns more about Swedish partners; this small congregation prays for and actively does fundraising for a Swedish rural congregation as an act of mutual mission. Another example of mutual responsibility in mission is when the SCMC requested the HCC to comment on their10 year vision and goal document. The HCC responded by involving several groups in a reading document from Sweden; after six days, they sent via email their critical responses (both positive and critical). This is mutual trust en route to mutual mission. Right now a Swedish delegation is visiting Mumbai and Pune to observe and learn from the Indian Christians how they do mission and development projects with the poor and the marginalized. Rev. Renofalt wrote that they have been so inspired by their sisters and brothers in India, and wish to learn from their passion for mission. ( From an email message Oct. 14, 2008).
C) WCC, NCCUSA, NCCP, and CWS express, show solidarity with the people of the Philippines: man made disasters, natural calamity, political repression, extra-judicial killings. Two days before I came here, I received the news that internal conflict in Mindanao has been revived. Now there is an urgent appeal to help internal refuges, about 250,000 fleeing from war going on in Mindanao between some extreme Muslims and the military. The indigenous women, men and children suffer most and daily. By the time we finish with this consultation, there will be 250,000 more hungry mouths and displaced people. I am aware of my inadequacy and lower middle class brown privilege. Kyrie eleison. Pray that we mutually "seek peace and pursue it" (Psalm 34:14). I cannot email a message, "be patient in suffering". That's an inappropriate thing to say to people who suffer day in and day out. Kalinaw, an Ngo in Mindanao, together with churches are mobilizing efforts to bring emergency relief and lasting peace. With your partnership with the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, this urgent need is being addressed, just like your response to the 2004 flood disaster response. Our people's hunger and thirst for justice and peace prompted UCCP Bishop Eliezer Pascua to declare in an interview by Jerry Van Master of Louisville, KY: â€œWe believe the kingdom of God can only be present when the hungry, sick, poor and imprisoned are cared for and where love, justice and peace are created.â€? March 13, 2007 D) Communities of Shalom at Drew/UMC It is a "grass-roots, community development network in the USA and Africa, seeking to build community, weave unity, and transform the world, one community at a time." (From brochure and presentation at Drew Theological Seminary Chapel, Oct, 2008).
Initiated by the Gen. Conference of the United Methodist Church in Los Angeles in 1992 racial riots, Community of Shalom (COS) now housed at Drew University and Theological School, aims to "engage congregations and communities to build a future of hope and peace together through multicultural and multi-faith collaboration." Perhaps CWS and COS can collaborate together. I share with you their six-point approach to change: SHALOM S - Systemic and Sustainable change H - Healing, Health, Harmony and wholeness A - Asset-based community development L - Love for God, self and neighbor O - Organizing for direct action M â€“ Multicultural and Multi-faith collaboration. Finally, E) The Gig United Methodist Church in Washington State, according to Rev. Sharon Moe of Tacoma district, has agreed to sponsor and welcome into to their midst an Iraqi refugee family, while they also call for the stop of war in Iraq. The whole church and the community are awaiting their arrival. (Informal interview with Rev. Moe, Drew Theological School, Oct.15, 2008). For me, these are some examples of doing mission together. The learning stations provided in this consultation are living examples of these too. Mutual Mission: What do we mean by mutual mission? Are we talking about partnership in mission that is not one-sided and one-directional? If by mission we mean participation in Godâ€™s mission of loving and caring for people and the whole of creation, then it means we are being co-missioners with God in kin-dom building here on earth. It
means also being co-missioners with one another, transcending barriers of race, creed, color, age and life situations as well as life preferences. By 'mutual mission,' we mean all parties involved in a particular mission are Involved in the dialogue about that mission; in planning, implementing, resourcing and evaluating. I reiterate the questions earlier posed : a) As churches and movements supporting Church World service, what areas do we need more mutual action to more effectively bring change in this fragile world? Why? b) What changes in attitudes, structures and relationships are required to achieve genuine partnership in mission? Where do you discern God is leading us from here? What commitments you and I are ready to make? What actions are called for? These are not easy to answer, but these cannot be ignored either. I believe mutual mission can lead to mutual transformation. Doing mission together in genuine partnership and mutuality with others generates a transformative force needed in this fragmented world. Drawing from several models of mutual mission (even though limited) I reflect on what doing Mutual Mission means to me. 1. Mutuality in mission means sharing a common vision. 2. Mutual mission is a living dialogue. 3. Engaging in mutual mission means committing ourselves to equal partnership which is a shared visioning process, decision-making, program planning; worshipping, resource generating; resource sharing, and reflecting together. 4. It means taking the time to celebrate and share our problems, concerns as well as our successes and surprises. Solidarity visits, Liturgy, table sharing and praying together are all part of the sharing.
5. It entails a willingness to recognize, and repent of the pitfalls of a triumphalistic western Christendom, and the arrogance of militaristic/economic power. "Hope and Change in Mutual Mission". I believe the Church World Service and its constituencies are pregnant with hope. Others have hope-filled mottos: Catholic Relief Services: "Giving Hope to a World of Need" United Methodist Com on Relief (UMCOR): "Be There, Be Hope." The International Orthodox Christian Charities: "From AID to Hope and SelfSufficiency." Paulo Freire writes in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 1982: “The dehumanization resulting from an unjust order is not a cause for despair but for hope, leading to the incessant pursuit of the humanity denied by injustice. Hope, however, does not consist in crossing one’s arm and waiting. As long as I fight, I am moved by hope; and if I fight with hope, then I can wait.” Addressing his people in South Africa, then divided and afraid, President Nelson Mandela brought a message of hope: “Together we will work to support courage where there is fear, Foster agreement where there is conflict, and inspire hope where there is despair." Sisters and Brothers in Christ, we do not know exactly what the future will hold for us. We can only trust and believe in the One who knows our future. Resurrection Faith gives birth to HOPE. If Christ has not been raised, St Paul said, then our faith is in vain. But because we believe that Christ has died, Christ is raised; Christ will come again, and hope lives in us. St. Augustine once said, “As Christians we are prisoners of
hope.” St Paul reminds us to "rejoice in hope." When we do, we witness to Christ, our Hope. Signs of Hope in Mission, and you can certainly add to the list: •
Grassroots organizations for change
Ratification of the UN Declaration of the Right of Indigenous Peoples
NGOs working together for peace, justice and sustainable development
Peoples Movements: Women, Indigenous People, World Social Forum, etc.
Increasing Interreligious Dialogue and projects
Indigenous theologies of Hope
A Call to Action What is it we need to do now? What is that community we envision becoming? We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. I believe the 2005 Athens Conference on World Mission and Evangelism said it succinctly in their public letter: “God calls us to be a community of hope. “Called in Christ to be healing and reconciling communities,” we have continued here in Athens the task of defining the kind of community God desires us to become. I want to reecho this vision of community. I believe it sums up the kind of st
community we hope for in doing mission together in the 21 century: "It is a community that bears witness to the Gospel in word and deed; alive in worship and learning; proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all; offering young people leadership roles; opening its doors to strangers and welcomes the marginalized within its own body; engaging those who suffer, and with those who struggle for justice and peace; providing services to all who are in need; recognizing its own vulnerability and need for healing; And - is faithful in its commitment to the wider Creation.
We pray that the Holy Spirit will breathe healing power into our lives, and that together we may move forward into the blessed peace of the new creation.” (A Letter from Athens to the Christian Churches, Networks and Communities, May 19, 2005. Adopted by the CWME Commission). P.3. Plenary May 14. Doc no. 4. WCC website). Mutual Mission can give bring transformation to the lives of those who are involved. That change must be felt in communities, in the world. The marks of mutual mission are: dialogical, embodied, contextual, transformational, creative, hope-filled and celebrative. A Call to Action requires: A) Self-critique. “It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out, It’s the grain of sand in your shoe.” (Unknown, wise saying) B) Reaffirming the commitment to promote visible unity of the church. As the body of Christ, we must work toward the visible unity of all Christians. Our Christian witness is more credible when we are united, not divided, connected not fragmented; mutually accountable and cooperative than exclusive and competitive. In this postmodern, post colonial era, we need to explore intercultural, intergenerational, intergender, interfaith, ecological approaches to wars and conflict, ecological crisis, migration and forms of modern slavery. C) Mutual mission requires mutual affection and mutual trust. Capacity building for organization requires basic trust in each other’s strength and sensitivity to each other’s vulnerabilities. Mistrust is born out of prejudice. Prejudice arises out of unconscious insecurity.
D) A sense of “humility”, acts of repentance, acts of reconciliation. For example, Kenneth Scott Latourette wrote in A History of the Ecumenical Movement (vol 1 15-171948) “The World Missionary Conference, Edinburgh 1910, was the birthplace of the modern ecumenical movement. This was seen especially in relation to worldwide evangelism- the proclamation of the Gospel- and the planting of the Church throughout the world.” In humility, I’d say the WMC Edinburgh 1910 paved the way to the birth of the ecumenical movement. It opened a door, but it was not the door. For how can one claim that it was the birthplace of the modern ecumenical movement when it was mostly Anglo-American Protestant societies and representatives there? The Orthodox churches and Roman Catholic Church were not invited, and did not participate. Of the 1200 people attending, only 17 were from outside USA and Europe. (So-called "younger churches", when in fact the church in India was said to be founded by Apostle Thomas). But one thing that stands out for me as I studied this history: The three streams of ecumenical collaboration eventually came out of this Edinburgh meeting: Life and Work, Faith and Order, and the International Missionary Council, all of which, as you know, eventually merged into the present day World Council of Churches. Don't you think we should continue our ecumenical ties? Yet, the challenge of race relations which was evident in 1910 is still very much with us today. Kyrie eleison. This has to change. We need to dismantle racism and gender inequality because these are blocks to mutual mission. Hope and Change do
not fall from the sky. We need to create them in our hearts and practice with our hands, face and feet. Right and just action promotes life. In an era of globalization, of neo-imperial powers, and of world wide recession, we need a radical alignment of moral values, political will, prophetic stance and spiritual reawakening in local, national and global levels. Hence, we hope to embrace a multidimensional mission. We need to commit ourselves together to integrating the multi-dimensions of Mission. Roman Catholic missiologists, Stephen Bevans, Eleanor Doidge and Robert Schreiter point to a multi-dimensional mission: •
Witness and Proclamation (Evangelism)
Liturgy, Prayer and Contemplation
Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation
Health and Healing (CWME)
Interreligious Dialogue My friends, I hope that by citing some contextual needs, raising some questions,
citing a few models of mutual mission, you are further encouraged to keep on doing your part. Mutuality, racial and economic justice as well as genuine partnership foster healthy mission relationships. We need each other to survive, to live meaningfully. Mutual Mission can give bring about mutual transformation. This is possible when our work together is: dialogical, embodied, contextual, transformational, creative, hope-filled and celebrative. Use your power of 5 “Vs:” VISION, VOICE, VOTE, VISIBILITY and VIBRANCY.
We need to be accountable to God and to each other. Hear the words of a Palestinian mother addressed to Jewish mothers: “You and I are the conscience. You and I are love and peace. You and I are the bridge to truth.” In being in mission together, we need to apply the message of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr: “We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.” Our excitement about mission needs to be contagious and obvious. Catch the passion for mission, not for the sake of your denomination or for the sake of Church World Service, but for the sake of other people who are hanging onto hope day-in and day-out; for the sake of people who are facing different tsunamis in life, and for the sake of the one who called us to serve, and not be served. I end with this prayer of Archbishop Oscar Romero, a servant of God and a martyr from El Salvador. May I invite you to pray with me, as you offer to put your hand on the shoulder of your neighbor as a sign of solidarity? …“We cannot do everything. And there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning; a step along the way; an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and to do the rest. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future that is not our own. Amen.” (Excerpts from prayer of Archbishop Oscar Romero. Copy from Arch. O. Romeo House, Lucerne, Switzerland). i
The UM reporter, Feb. 2, 2007 Joint Communiqué: “revitalizing the Ecumenical Movement in Asia”. Joint Consultation of CCA, NCC, and Asia regional Group. Aug. 31-Sept.3, 2008 ii