Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
In the Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we bring you greetings.
Several months ago, the Board of Foreign Missions asked the Bishops to address the subject of mission in a pastoral letter. They have requested that we provide instruction on this important area. They also seek counsel and direction regarding the future of global mission in the Reformed Episcopal Church.
At the outset, we draw attention to the fact that the singular, mission, instead of missions, plural, appears throughout this document to reflect that there is only one Great Commission with one mission to reach all people for Jesus Christ. Thus, the evangelistic effort of the Church should be unified and united.
We wish to thank all associated with mission not only for their request but for their commitment. We express our gratitude to God first and foremost for our many dedicated missionaries in various parts of the world. We particularly thank the Rt. Rev. Robert H. Booth, Dr. Barbara J. West, and the Board of Foreign Missions for their dedicated service to our Lord and His Church as well. We commend them for their especially effective short-term mission efforts, for working hard to maintain previous commitments to our missionaries, and for creatively responding to many new challenges and opportunities in an ever increasing variety of mission settings. Yet they sense, as do we, that we face a critical moment for the history of mission in general, for the Reformed Episcopal Church's philosophy and strategy of spreading the Gospel, for the realignment of Anglicanism and, most importantly, for the evangelization of the western world.
(1)Mission in general finds a completely different situation in 2004 as compared with the year 1873, when the REC began. In the world of the Industrial Revolution Europe and America led in an all out effort to take Christianity to the rest of the globe, as most of the two-thirds world was only beginning to hear the Gospel in the late 19th century. The Gospel was spread by predominantly white missionaries to Africa and Asia. Today, the ones whom those early missionaries evangelized are sending back missionaries to the west and the north.
One example of the contrast between then and now is Uganda in East Central Africa. It is particularly striking for Reformed Episcopalians, as it concerns David Livingstone, the famous medical missionary from England to Congo, who died the very year the REC was founded, 1873. Two years before this date, an American reporter named Henry M. Stanley searched central Africa for Dr. Livingstone. In route, the journalist made his way to the region known today as Uganda. The king of the realm asked Stanley, "What do you think of my kingdom?" to which the westerner responded, "You're in darkness and you need the light." The king asked where he might obtain this light. Stanley instructed him to write the Church Missionary Society in England to send missionaries; "They would bring the light of Jesus Christ." The king followed this counsel. Missionaries were sent. Many died in route and most of those who made it to Uganda were later martyred, even the first English Missionary Bishop, who was burned alive after the king's son came to power and attempted to take the kingdom back into paganism. Eventually Uganda converted to Christianity and is currently one among many countries where the Anglican Church has remained faithful to the historic Christian faith and witness. The church there is about as old as the Reformed Episcopal Church, having continued to grow in grace in spite of tyrants like Idi Amin. At present, Uganda is virtually a Christian nation. There are millions of Anglican Ugandan Christians alone, who now have a vision for sending missionaries to America. Thus, the situation is radically different from the late 19th century. It would be redundant today for Americans to send missionaries to evangelize Uganda. At present the Ugandan Christians are better missionaries than American ones. We should be learning from them.
In addition to the success of the Gospel in Africa, consider also the amazing growth of Christianity in Southeast Asia and China. Penn State University scholar, Philip Jenkins, has concluded in his remarkable book, The Next Christendom, the center of Christianity has already shifted from the west to the east. Others have even noted that by 2020 the Gross National Product in China will surpass the United States and in all likelihood China will be the leading Christian nation by 2050. Based on what the Holy Spirit has accomplished among the heretofore referred to, "heathen in darkest Africa etc.," such western statements are no longer accurate. Unlike one-hundred-thirty years ago, it is the decadent societies of America and Europe who are cold toward the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are the ones in darkness. Hence, the massive conversions among the two-thirds world as a result of being evangelized successfully, and the apostasy of the western world of the evangelists, raises monumental issues in reconsidering how American and European missionary societies should conduct mission, let alone the Board of Foreign Missions in the Reformed Episcopal Church.
(2)Regarding the work of mission in the Reformed Episcopal Church, most of our concerns from the beginning were with supporting other mission efforts. For very good reasons the REC did not establish Reformed Episcopal Churches around the world with few exceptions such as India. The rationale is obvious if we consider the Episcopal and Evangelical climate of the late 19th century and two thirds of the 20th century. As a very new, young emerging Anglican jurisdiction, early Reformed Episcopalians with their dual ecumenical and evangelical commitments recognized the superior organizations and financial resources of other, established, older churches and mission societies. Wisely and humbly, our ancestors for the most part chose to combine REC resources of finances and personnel with other missionary agencies. Rather than "re-invent the wheel," they worked with what was already in existence. For example, when Bishop Booth went to Uganda as a missionary, he served for eighteen years under the authority of the Anglican Church in Uganda. It would not have made sense to create a Reformed Episcopal Church, because the Gospel had been so faithfully spread by countless Church of England missionaries and other Christian denominations. The same approach was taken with the Rev. William S. Jerdan in France, who serves with the French Reformed Church.
Another aspect of the mission mind-set and philosophy of 19th and 20th century Reformed Episcopalians was the lack of any real organized effort to conduct home mission. Mission was understood almost exclusively as foreign, not domestic. It should be remembered, however, that America and Europe were for the most part the realm of the "sending Church". The effect, especially in areas where the REC had its original roots, was to see mission in terms of "across oceans". Also, it should be remembered that on the home front all of our initial energy was focused on trying to preserve the evangelical Anglican heritage around which the REC had begun.
Furthermore, with our evangelical identity, gradually the REC became preoccupied with the concerns of the emerging evangelical movement in America. The result was that Reformed Episcopalians supported and participated in the establishment of leading evangelical institutions. Yet, because of their warm ecumenical concerns to help spread fellow evangelicals' commitments to the authority of the Holy Scriptures and the preaching of the Gospel, they did little of what could be described as uniquely Reformed Episcopal Church development and growth until the 1970s and 1980s. At that time the church allowed the wonderfully successful work of the REC in the Charleston area to become a diocese under the visionary and able leadership of the Rt. Rev. William H. S. Jerdan. In addition, the Board of National Church Extension in the 1980s, under the courageous and dedicated guidance of the Rt. Rev. Royal U. Grote, paved the way for what has become the Diocese of Mid-America.
It would be easy for us to look back, neglecting the context for mission in the Reformed Episcopal Church, and critique our brethren. We caution against this hindsight approach. We, as Bishops in this branch of the Church of God, are grateful for those dedicated Christians in the Reformed Episcopal Church who have gone before us. Not only did they remain faithful to their Lord, the Word of God written and the Gospel, but they displayed a sense of unity with other Christians at a time when many others sought to build their own kingdoms. Instead, the Reformed Episcopal Church saw itself in a supporting role within the larger context of evangelicalism and Anglicanism. In this particular regard our forebears offer a sense of direction as we consider where the Lord is leading us regarding mission.
In our day, the Board of Foreign Missions is being confronted with many new opportunities. More than ever before, the call has come for Reformed Episcopal Churches to be established in various places around the world. At the same time, the face of evangelicalism has radically changed. For the most part it is less and less Biblical and creedal (Apostles' and Nicene) than it was in the previous centuries. Classical evangelicalism has nearly disappeared. In place of it, experience and secular culture increasingly supplant the authority of Scripture and the Gospel throughout the western evangelical world. Furthermore, numerous indicators, such as the debate over whether or not God uses other religions to bring people to Himself, thereby essentially negating the rationale for mission altogether, point to the declining influence of the spiritually rich theology of our Reformation heritage. In addition, the realignment of Anglicanism raises new possibilities given our historic ecumenical and evangelical tradition.
The imminent realignment of Anglicanism is significant. In many respects the Reformed Episcopal Church is the beginning of this realignment; long ago we saw by the grace of God that the foundation of the authority of the Holy Scripture was beginning to erode in the Protestant Episcopal Church. So too, the Continuing Anglican Church movement of the 1970s became part of the reorganization. Our brothers and sisters in Christ in the Anglican Province of America (APA), with whom we are in a Concordat of Intercommunion, have played an important role and continue to do so in the continuing Anglican movement. Today, many Archbishops among the 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion have broken fellowship with the Episcopal Church of the United States of America (ECUSA). Also, Episcopal Bishops, clergy and laity have formed a church within a church called the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes. These fellow Christians of Anglican branches of Christ's Church have come to the same conclusions that many of our founders did. The authority of Scripture has been compromised and must be re-established as the foundation of all faith and life. The Articles of Religion written in the English Reformation, expressing the doctrinal standard of the faith once delivered in the creeds, should be reclaimed as the unalterable formularies of orthodox Anglicanism. Above all, salvation by grace through faith in the Living, Crucified and Risen Christ as the only way to God must be preached anew.
If we follow through on the ecumenical and evangelical commitments of prior Reformed Episcopalians, we are obligated to work with our fellow Anglican Christians in other branches of Christ's Church who are separating from the Episcopal Church. Previous Reformed Episcopalians used the concept of a federation of churches in their relationships with the Free Church of England and so forth. In a similar way, the General Committee approved the creation of a communion document which enables the REC to work with the APA as well as other Anglican bodies on gospel issues and mission. It requires adherence to the authority of Holy Scripture, the Articles of Religion and the classic Cranmer Prayer Book as the foundation for worship. At the same time, jurisdictions joining the Communion of Anglican Provinces, Jurisdictions, Dioceses and Ministries would keep their own structures, properties and boundaries. This type of arrangement would allow us to enter into a relationship with other Biblical and orthodox Anglican jurisdictions, but at the same time maintain the integrity of each jurisdiction, especially the REC and APA. Nevertheless, this way of working together opens up incredible mission considerations. If we do as previous generations of Reformed Episcopalians, uniting to the extent that we are able with other like-minded Anglican Christians, we could be in a position to combine our resources more effectively, while also learning from and lending support to mission around the world where there is overlap of ministry. We could also ponder ways that we might be able to work with them even in evangelizing America and the West. This could lead to a completely new, united way of viewing mission. This union is especially important as we think about how mission might take back the Gospel to the very western part of the world that was so mightily used by God to Christianize the eastern part.
(3)The western world, once strongly Christian, no longer has a single Christian nation left. In the words of King Theodin of Tolkien's Two Towers, "The days have come down in the west behind the shadows. How did it come to this?" It came to this because the Great Commission of Jesus Christ has been all but neutralized by a return to paganism in North America and Europe. It would seem therefore that we as Reformed Episcopalians on the one hand need to reconsider mission programs and strategies in light of how ineffectively the Great Commission is being fulfilled in the part of the world where we have our highest concentration of members. On the other hand, we should seriously re-evaluate our efforts in the two-thirds world where other Christians, even Anglicans, have done much better at spreading the Gospel of Christ. All of this should be done by prayer and study of the Holy Scriptures for guidance. In the remainder of our pastoral letter, therefore, we shall seek the instruction of the Lord in His Holy Scriptures from the five statements in the Gospels and Acts of the Great Commission.1 The purpose is to draw from them an overview of the foundational teachings we believe necessary for formulating a new mission strategy for the 21st century.
Teaching #1 from St. John
Missionary God Means Missionary Church
This statement reveals that "God is a missionary God."2 Sending is endemic to who He is and how He acts. He is loving, which compels Him to extend His care and commitment to what He has created: "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10). Because of this love for His creation, He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, into the world. John T. Semands summarizes this powerful teaching:
St. John also relates in his accounting of Jesus' Great Commission that the missionary God who sent the missionary Son breathes His Spirit on the disciples, thereby sending them. The Spirit that Jesus breathes is the Holy Spirit whom He had promised would be sent to them (John 16), none other than the Spirit of Christ. This breathing activity takes us back to the original creation, when God breathed the breath of life into Adam. It also reminds us of Jesus' own Incarnation, which resulted from the work of the Holy Spirit forming the God/Man in Mary's womb. Imparting the Holy Spirit by breathing on the disciples, therefore, recreates and incarnates Himself in them. Who He is becomes characteristic of them. Just as He is the ultimate missionary, so the very redeemed nature of His disciples becomes essentially missionary.
At this moment in history, Reformed Episcopalians and all Christians in the West should recover this foundational teaching. Over a century ago, mission was the work of a committee or a department. It was something on the perimeter of the Church in the West. It shouldn't have been this way, but centuries of spiritual capital resulting in the Christian atmosphere of North America and England allowed for this subtle and eventually insidious development. The result has been that Western Christians think and act like mission is optional, something to take or leave. In actuality, mission is not optional. Not to evangelize implies death, that the Spirit of Christ is not indwelt in the non-missionary church, because to have Him is to be a missionary.
It is our conviction therefore that mission should be at the center of everything we are and do in the Reformed Episcopal Church. Every Reformed Episcopalian should be a missionary. Each parish should be a mission station. All committees at the parish, diocesan and national levels should factor mission into the center of their business first and foremost. Mission should be of the heart of every aspect of the Reformed Episcopal Church.
Teaching #2 from St. Matthew
A Missionary Enterprise Consisting of the Catechesis
St. Matthew records the Great Commission in its fullest terms. The disciples are sent, commanded to baptize and teach all that Christ taught with the promise of the Lord's presence. This full commission was understood by the ancient Church as involving the four requirements of the catechesis: The Creed, the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer, and the Sacraments.
The catholic creeds (Apostles', Nicene and Athanasian) provide the doctrinal foundation for the Christian life. They grow out of the baptismal formula. Since Christ called the disciples to baptize in the Name of the Triune God, becoming a disciple meant confessing faith in Christ in terms of the creedal statements organized around the Members of the Godhead. These catholic creeds expressed the minimum to be believed about each Person of the Triune God. The Father is the source of all life; the Son redeems; the Holy Spirit is the Lord and Giver of life. These creeds were applied at the time of the English Reformation through the Articles of Religion. They are doctrinally binding for Reformed Episcopalians and any orthodox Anglican.4
The catholic creeds contain the requirement for evangelical faith. They begin, "I believe." The belief implied is more than assent to a set of theological statements. It is personal trust in the One about whom the statements are made. It is reception of, dependence on, a trust in the One, True Triune God of the Scriptures. Evangelical faith is therefore personal belief from the heart. It is the subjective response to the objective Faith once delivered. At the end of the Middle Ages, the Christian walk was viewed mechanically. The Sacraments were understood as automatically bestowing grace irrespective of personal faith. This was a departure from the Holy Scriptures as well as the ancient, catholic faith. Reformation was necessary for the Sacraments as well as the Gospel to be restored. Perhaps this is why Cranmer's profound words of administration in Holy Communion so precisely capture the balance between faith and Sacrament: "The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee and feed on him in thy heart by faith, with thanksgiving." The Sacraments are not effectual, even though valid and objective, without personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This evangelical faith is part of the catholic creeds themselves.
The Ten Commandments and the Lord's Prayer are part of Christ's calling of His disciples to "teach all that I have commanded." The Ten Commandments are the ethical aspect, the holiness required of a follower of Jesus. When asked what is the greatest of the commandments, the Lord responded, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul and with all thy mind; this is the first and great commandment. The second is like unto it; thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matthew 22:37-40). The significance of this summary of the law is that it is a direct quote from Moses. Thus, the Church has historically required her disciples to learn and live by the moral law, as it has been called in theology in distinction from the civil and the ceremonial laws that change from the Old to the New Covenant. Christians are responsible to live by the Ten Commandments, the moral law, but the civil and ceremonial laws of the Old Testament are no longer binding. The coming of the Incarnation rendered them unnecessary even though many of the principles behind the civil and ceremonial laws still have application.
The Lord not only commanded what God had always required but He instructed His disciples to pray, "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen." This prayer is simply called "The Lord's Prayer", or the "Our Father." The call to prayer teaches that the Christian life is not only ethical, it is spiritual. Prayer is at the heart of walking with God in faith. Being a true disciple of Jesus requires a fourth aspect, spirituality.
Finally, the Lord promised His presence in the Great Commission: "Lo, I am with you always." Christ literally declared that He would be truly and personally present in the lives of His disciples. This real, perpetual presence has been understood sacramentally. How did Jesus explain His continued presence? It was not only through prayer but the Sacraments. On the night He was betrayed, He took bread and wine and described them as His Body and Blood. He declared, "This is My Body," and "This is My Blood." However these statements are understood, they should not be interpreted to mean some kind of "real absence", as though the bread and the wine are only symbols. This is not the view of the Reformation, which restored the sacramental life to the Church of God in the West. Although the Reformation corrected the late Medieval abuses of the doctrine of transubstantiation, the English and German Reformations did not react by rejecting completely a Biblical, mystical and real presence of Christ by means of the Lord's Supper. Cranmer expressed this real presence in the Articles of Religion he wrote at the time of the Reformation: "The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner" (Article 27). At the end of the Reformation, Richard Hooker, a famous Anglican Scholar from Oxford, spoke of St. Paul's statements to the Corinthians, wherein the Apostle described Holy Communion as "partaking" in the Body and Blood of Christ, real participation by faith in Christ. The life of the disciple is therefore sacramental, calling for frequent observance of the "Blessed Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ," as expressed by the language of the Second Office of Instruction, and the "Strengthening and refreshing of our souls by the Body and Blood of Christ," as stated in the Catechism.
Becoming a disciple of Jesus involves learning catholic doctrine, personally believing in the Triune God, obeying His commandments, living a life of prayer, and walking in the perpetual presence of Christ through frequent observance of the Sacraments with thanksgiving. These standards are stated very clearly in the questions at Holy Baptism. They are the minimum standard for entering the life of Christ by baptism through faith. Tragically, St. Matthew's full call to discipleship has been minimized and trivialized by modern and post modern Christianity. Since World War II, evangelicals have pitched the Gospel as a kind of crass decisionalism without providing the content of commitment. As a result the Christian life in the West has lost its quality. Therefore, the missionary enterprise of historic Christianity consists of understanding true faith in Christ according to the Biblical standard as fleshed out in the ancient catechesis.
Teaching #3 from St. Mark
The Missionary Enterprise: Here, There and Everywhere
At the time of the founding of the REC, the entire Western world mostly conceived of the missionary enterprise as over there somewhere, especially if an ocean had to be crossed, but not here. Reginald Heber's beautiful words, written 150 years ago, reflected the mindset of mission at the time.
From Greenland's icy mountains,
From India's coral strand,
They call us to deliver
Their land from error's chain.
These lines echo the old way of perceiving the world as the Christian West and the non-Christian East. The West saw itself, and in many ways still does, as essentially Christian. Mission was going somewhere else but not staying at home. Even in our own Reformed Episcopal Church, in the not too distant past we spoke of spreading the Gospel in North America as the Board of National Church Extension. Taking the Gospel somewhere else was "missions."
The language of our Lord as recorded by St. Mark does not speak of the missionary enterprise as over or out there. He states, "Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). The original Greek text literally reads, "Preach the Gospel to all the creation." Mission is therefore everywhere. It is here as well as there. In the words of David Seamands, "We are to cross the street, cross the mountains, and cross the seas until everyone has heard the good news of Christ."5
Furthermore, the language in St. Mark implies a united approach to mission. For well over a century the Reformed Episcopal Church like most branches of Christendom has created home and foreign organizations that go their separate ways, competing for the same, desperately needed dollars, unintentionally creating a divided approach to reaching the lost world for Christ.
One simply cannot find such an approach in the New Testament. Mission is mission is mission. Following Apostolic example and institution, one organizational, episcopal structure manages mission regardless of location. The benefits of this Biblical, unified approach to the missionary enterprise are immense. Even though division of labor is required a unified missionary enterprise engages everyone in the single mission of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. To use the words of Proverbs, "iron sharpens iron." Learning is reciprocal. Strategies and resources must be coordinated, especially when mission demands at home and abroad are coming from everywhere, and at a time when the faithful in the Anglican Communion are seeking ways to unite in common mission. It would seem the need for unity in the mission enterprise is necessary not only for Reformed Episcopalians but the extended members of our Anglican family.
Thus, St. Mark's statement of the Great Commission of our Lord speaks of "preaching to every creature" regardless of location. This is mission here, there and everywhere. To quote David Seamands again, "It is not crossing the sea but seeing the cross that makes us missionaries," because "it is culture not geography that makes the difference between various types of evangelism.
Teaching #4 from St. Luke
A Missionary Enterprise in Word and Deed
St. Luke quotes language from Christ's Great Commission consistent with the focus of his Gospel account. He refers to the suffering of Christ, which is so prominent in this evangelist. The Gospel according to Luke has been described as the "Gospel of outcasts." Only St. Luke notes ten lepers, a prodigal son, a short tax collector in a tree, a Good Samaritan and so forth. The other Gospel writers never speak of these particular individuals. The people in the third evangelist's account all have one dramatic thing in common: they are outcasts. Moreover, because they are outcasts, they identify with Christ's suffering and bearing of burdens. Hence, it is St. Luke who records, "And thus it behooves Christ to suffer."
For this reason, St. Luke documents the facets of the Great Commission that portray the missionary enterprise as more than words. This means witness by character. St. Luke states categorically that "ye are witnesses of these things." It is significant that Seamands understands this statement in the following manner: "True witness is rooted in being, not just in speaking; in character, not merely in communication. We must first witness with our lives and then with our lips."7 Witness therefore is who we are and not only what we do. Since the missionary endeavor has character at its center, the missionary must demonstrate exemplary attitudes and behaviors depicting a moral fiber shaped by the holiness of the Living Christ.
For far too long the proclivity of the West has been toward a utilitarian kind of "what works" approach. In the Church, this has translated into an emphasis on technique and presentation. Instead the New Testament places priority on the person, on character. Indeed Church history is full of people who went out for Christ with inferior methods. From Athanasius to Mother Teresa, the lasting impact of their lives was their character. If we are to be a missionary church then, we must have people with character that can be sent into darkness to bring light. Godly people change the world. All the slick technique cannot make up for weak character. Could it be that the modern Church has emphasized technique over character because it is easier to create and teach technique? It takes a lifetime, even generations of godliness to produce character. Yet, in the final analysis the witness of character is what wins the world.
Being a witness is not static. It implies deed. St. Luke's Gospel is full of stories that demonstrate witness by deed. The classic one is the Parable of the Good Samaritan (St. Luke 10). The context must not be missed. A lawyer asks Jesus a question that is every missionary's dream, "What must I do to inherit eternal life" (Luke 10:25). The difference is that Jesus did not answer the lawyer's question the way most evangelists and evangelistic programs set up the missionary situation. Our Lord told the lawyer the summary of the law: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart . . . And thy neighbor as thyself" (10:27). In case the point was missed, Jesus proceeded to offer a parable after the lawyer tried to parse the definition of terms - "Who is my neighbor?" - to avoid the obvious. It is a story about preachers and theologians who pass by a man left dead after he has been beaten and robbed. An outcast, a Samaritan, is the only one who demonstrates what is necessary for eternal life. He shows love for his neighbor by doing the apparent. He helps him. He offers aid by bandaging him, providing means of transportation and paying for his hospital bill. In fact, this scene gave early Christians the idea of building hotels and hospitals in the ancient world, the source of both thereby being the social provisions of the Church in the name of the Gospel of Christ.
The Gospel is evangelical but it is also social. True Christianity does not pit the one against the other in the way liberals and evangelicals have for over a century, leaving either an evangelical message without social deeds or benevolent care without the message of salvation. It is not either/or, but St. Luke powerfully conveys the picture of a Gospel with hands and feet on it: a caring, loving, serving benevolent living out of the grace of God before people bearing the marks of wrath.
Finally, St. Luke's Gospel takes us to the issue of culture. Christianity creates culture. The word culture comes from cultus, which means worship. The culture of Christianity is one of the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving not a particular political agenda. With the concern to carry the Gospel forward in deed as well as word, we must be careful not to confuse our particular view of culture with Christian culture. The goal is to Christianize not westernize. For far too long, western missionaries have gone forth with political encrustation around the pure core of the Gospel. The recipients of this approach have often rejected the cultural layers and never heard the Gospel. From the point of view of the missionary, he must strive to transform every aspect of the culture to which he goes with the Gospel, for the Gospel will change every aspect of that with which it comes into contact. Yet the missionary must be careful to communicate the kingdom of God and not something else to do the transforming. To introduce the Gospel is not to introduce east, west, north or south. It is to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth.
At the same time Luke reports the detailed, preached and proclaimed message of the suffering and rising Christ. More than any of the other statements of the Great Commission, Luke also emphasizes the preaching of the Gospel, the proclaimed message of Christ by word. The focus is on content once again, and not on style. This is not an excuse for sloppiness of grammar and phrasing. It is only to note that the content of the Gospel is more important than the theatrical and the dramatic. Nevertheless, words are powerful. When they are put together well to proclaim content, the Gospel is preached with great power. If God has revealed Himself by means of words, the power of words should never be underestimated. Indeed this is why the medium of words will never cease being the most effective means of delivering the Gospel message.
Therefore, the Great Commission as stated in St. Luke's Gospel leads the Church into a Gospel of character, of deed and of word. This combination for the missionary enterprise touches mind, heart and will, the right brain and left brain, body as well as soul. It is the total presentation of the total message for the total person.
Teaching # 5 from Acts
A Missionary Enterprise of Indigenous Churches Not Just Converts
St. Luke records the Great Commission in the Book of Acts. He continues the story of the Risen, Living Christ with special attention to the Ascension and its primary ramification, the establishment of God's heavenly temple on earth, the Church. As the book opens with an extensive description of the events around the Ascension, the Ascent of our Lord is revealed as the enthronement of the King of kings in a new heavenly temple. The sequence of events in Acts is virtually identical to the building of the first temple by King Solomon. Most notable is the parallel of the culminating point when the temple is consecrated, the coming of the Shekinah Glory, the Holy Spirit. This is the moment at which God takes His throne, the kingdom is established and its extension begins. In Solomon's time, the kingdom went to the regions beyond the Jordan River, which had originally been promised to Joshua.
In Acts, when King Jesus takes His throne, an identical series of developments occurs. Once on His throne in the heavens, the Lord's heavenly temple extends downward as the Holy Spirit, the Shekinah Glory of the Old Testament, comes to earth. Significantly, the Holy Spirit is poured out on the Apostles as the Feast of Pentecost was being celebrated in the Temple. Thus, God creates the new heavenly temple on earth in the midst of the old. The new temple would extend to the four corners of the earth as the prophets, particularly Ezekiel foretold.
When the new temple is created, He pours out the Holy Spirit on all peoples reversing the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11). The mission begins. Most importantly, the Church is created. Servants are raised up to carry on the work. One of these first deacons, Stephen, makes a striking reference to the connection between the Temple and the Church in his great sermon. His sermon centers on the redemptive history of the Temple and the people of God in relation to it. At a critical point, he even describes the community of the Tabernacle as the "church in the wilderness" (Acts 7:38). At the conclusion of his sermon he quotes the Prophet Isaiah, who prophesied that a day would come when the heavenly temple would supercede Solomon's.
The implications were clear to all who heard what Stephen was saying. In so many words the Deacon was instructing them that the Holy Spirit had filled Solomon's Temple. Now He had come in the midst of a heavenly temple, to which Isaiah's prophecy referred, and Jesus was on His throne, the One whom they had destroyed. At that, the listeners stoned Stephen, transforming him into an early martyr. Jesus stood to greet him as a radical rabbi, Saul, also stood by and watched. Unbeknown to Saul, "in that while he was a sinner," Christ captured him, as the mantle of the martyred Deacon would soon be dramatically draped on the one to be called Paul.
When Christ converts Paul, He appears to him on the famed road to Damascus with telling words: "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" Saul only asks who He is. Jesus clarifies, "I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest" (Acts 9:4-5). The striking feature about these words is that Jesus equates Himself with the Christians Saul was killing. Hence, the Church is the extension of the Incarnate, Living Christ on earth, being called the Body of Christ.
In terms of the mission enterprise, the expansion of the heavenly temple to earth should be understood as the establishment of the Church. The first, Apostolic and Biblical missionaries therefore spread the Gospel to form the Church. They were not simply out to make converts. They not only wanted to make converts but they labored to make worshipers. Consequently, they planted churches. They didn't simply pass out tracts, create programs and go on their way. They as quickly as possible followed the preaching of the Word with the administration of the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion in the formation of distinctly ecclesiastical communities.
By raising up the Church and not simply converts, the Apostles extended the new heavenly temple on earth as Jesus, their Master, had instructed them to pray: "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." With heaven as the model for earth and their objective being the extension of the temple kingdom known as the Church, the worship of God Almighty was the ultimate goal of mission. This is why one of the first things the ancient missionaries did was to establish an altar-table at which the newly baptized would come for communion. Around this altar was eventually built a church. Beyond the church became the culture known as "God's mile," the parish.
Worship became the priority of the Church, meaning the driving concern was to establish a worshiping community through mission. The Rt. Rev. Royal Grote has written an important book on this priority, which we commend for your further study: Calling on the Name of the Lord. In this study, Bishop Grote traces the first uses of an oft repeated Biblical phrase, "calling on the Name of the Lord," from Genesis through Romans. St. Paul draws on the phrase in a commonly quoted text having to do with the proclamation of the Gospel (Romans 10:13). No doubt to call on the Name of the Lord is to believe in Jesus. But it is much more than the decisionalism to which the modern Church reduces this Biblical phrase. Bishop Grote's thesis, which we endorse, is that to call on the Name of the Lord is indeed to trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, but this belief, if it is true, will translate into worship of the Almighty God in Spirit and in Truth. A believer is therefore a worshiper. The missionary endeavor is to plant Churches where the Living Christ is proclaimed to the world by Word and Sacrament.
Finally, it should further be mentioned that not only is the missionary endeavor for the end of planting churches and not just converts, but these churches were to become indigenous and self-supporting, eventually sending out their own missionaries around the world. The spread of the Gospel in the New Testament tells this remarkable story time and again, whether in Jerusalem, in Corinth or in the great city of Rome. Churches were established all over the ancient world, where the Apostles traveled, and quickly became their own entities supporting the ministry and raising up their own missionaries.
In the history of mission, the efforts of the West to spread the Gospel in the 18th and 19th centuries were crippled by a colonial model. As nations sought to establish colonies, mission traveled along the same colonial lines. This created co-dependency of the worst sort. The converts were raised up to depend on the original mission and the mission stations kept the converts in a kind of insidious, slave-like dependency. Mission agencies heightened this abuse attempting to control structures from afar, and by keeping converts financially dependent on monies from the sending agency. This was nothing less than a deformation of the New Testament model.
In the early 20th century, an insightful Anglican missionary, Roland Allen, observed the missionary disaster of a colonial approach to mission. He wrote a seminal work that greatly contributed to changing the face of mission to the two-thirds world, The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church: And the Causes Which Hinder It. In this powerful work, Allen calls for a return to the proper view of the New Testament model of mission. This model recognizes that the Church can only correctly expand when it is free to organize, govern and support itself in its own culture and circumstances. Any attempt to impose a control from outside agencies only serves to confuse and retard the development of the Church. Allen describes this Biblical approach as endeavoring to raise up indigenous, self-supporting churches. The Rt. Rev. Daniel R. Morse adapts and applies Allen's conclusions to the Reformed Episcopal Church as follows:
"It would seem that almost everyone now admits that the Reformed Episcopal Church, or even the whole of the Christian Church conceived most broadly, cannot hope, by multiplication of missionaries, to reach the vast populations of China, India, America, and Africa, not to mention the rest of the world, nor to cover the whole of these great areas with mission stations, still less to provide mission schools and hospitals sufficient to supply their needs. The demands made upon us by our current missionary efforts for money and support tend rather to increase than to diminish from year to year to such an extent that we are hard pressed to find the necessary funds. If the Reformed Episcopal Church is to be expected, not only to gather and train new congregations, but to keep hold of them, to control their organization and finance, and to raise up and supervise their clergy, and all this for an undefined period, then one may well ask how long this process can go on; how long the mission will be able to support the growing burden of its congregations.Bishop Morse has completed in greater detail an important summary of the whole of Allen's work. We commend to all Reformed Episcopalians and fellow Anglicans this helpful document along with all of Roland Allen's studies.
Even if the supply of men and funds from Western sources was unlimited, and we could cover the whole globe with an army of millions of foreign missionaries and establish stations thickly all over the world, the method would speedily reveal its weakness. The mere fact that Christianity was propagated by such an army, established in foreign stations all over the world, would inevitably alienate the national populations, who would see in it the growth of the domination of a foreign people. They would see themselves robbed of their religious independence, and would more and more fear the loss of their social independence. Foreigners can never successfully direct the propagation of any faith throughout a whole country. If the faith does not become naturalized and expand among the people by its own vital power, it exercises an alarming and hateful influence, and men fear and shun it as something alien. It is then obvious that no sound missionary policy can be based upon multiplication of missionaries and mission stations.
Our missionaries must aim at laying such a foundation that India may be evangelized by Indians, Germany by Germans, Africa by Africans, each country by its own Christians. That certainly must mean that our mission ought to prepare the way for the evangelization of the country by the free spontaneous activity of our converts, and that their success must be measured not so much by the number of foreign missionaries employed, or by the number of converts, as by the growth of the national church in the power to expand. Among those who think seriously about the preparation of converts to evangelize their own countries, two conflicting theories, involving two conflicting methods of missionary work, are widely held, and these demand our careful consideration.
Bishop Morse's summary brings us back to the thrust of St. Luke's presentation of the Great Commission in the Book of Acts. We as biblical Episcopalians are called to understand and implement a missionary enterprise dedicated to raising up biblical churches. These dynamic parishes should be worshiping communities, who indigenously proclaim the Good News as they become missionary enterprises sending out and even supporting their own missionaries.
ConclusionAs we enter the season of Pentecost at the beginning of a new day for mission and all orthodox Anglicans, we have been brought to some sobering and humbling conclusions. It is our conviction that we stand on the threshold of critical times full of new opportunities. Chief among them is the possibility of reaching out with the Gospel more than ever before. This will require reorienting our church in terms of mission and by entering new relationships to the same end with our fellow Christians in other branches of Christ's Church, particularly with our orthodox Anglican brethren as realignment takes place. To accomplish these objectives, we believe our Lord, through the careful reading, hearing, learning and inwardly digesting of His most Holy Word of God written, would have us take several action steps as Reformed Episcopalians and Anglicans. It is our firm belief that these steps should be planned around the Great Commission principles enumerated in this pastoral letter.
First, just as God is the missionary God who creates the missionary Church, we are certain that mission should become the center of everything we are and do as Anglican Christians. Each parish, diocese, committee and board should rethink its own mission in terms of THE MISSION for which Jesus Christ bought us with His blood on Golgotha. This will mean moving mission from the perimeter to the center of everything. It will require our parishes and dioceses to contemplate, pray for and set as an objective the expansion of their ministries into new mission: parishes daughtering parishes and dioceses growing into more dioceses. This push outward with the Gospel should not be limited to the western part of the world, although at this time it should be a priority. The broader the base of mission at home the more mission can be accomplished abroad.
Second, our missionary enterprise should be shaped by the catechesis. This will among other things involve coordinated educational and publishing efforts to support the work of mission. We need educational materials that will help parishes and mission to teach the Faith Once Delivered. We also need clergy and laity who are trained to be missionary-catechists wherever they are. Thus, our seminaries should evaluate their curricula to determine whether the institutions are able to equip clergy who can be missionary pastors.
Third, if the missionary enterprise is going to be here as well as there, the old organizational structures, divisions and isolated jurisdictional ways of doing mission will have to be removed without abandoning previous commitments to missionaries. We call for the creation of one, united strategy for mission both by the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Anglican Province of America. Furthermore, mission should be conducted in communion with other jurisdictions. To facilitate this, the Communion of Anglican Provinces, Jurisdictions, and Ministries in America (CAPJMA) has been created to bring together an increasing number of orthodox Anglican jurisdictions to share in implementing this effort. This will no doubt create certain challenges for certain jurisdictions. For example, the Reformed Episcopal Church will need to provide for its current missionaries in an ongoing way and consider how to seize new opportunities in concert with CAPJMA. This will unite the Reformed Episcopal Church with the Anglican Province of America and other jurisdictions in not only domestic and global mission, but in making missions into mission, a singular thrust for the Gospel. This united mission should result in coordinated efforts with sensitivity to other Anglican branches of Christ's Church before pursuing any outreach, especially in the Southern Hemisphere. We therefore encourage all missionary activity to participate with Ekklesia and Global Mission Partners, a network of orthodox and Biblical Anglican mission agencies. As the united effort emerges, we will ask every parish and organization to give to the end that current missionaries will be provided for and the new mission strategy fully funded.
Fourth, we believe that in the aforementioned reorganizing processes, the strategy for the missionary enterprise should be carried out in word and deed. This will require study and implementation of the ancient concept known as spiritual formation. We are to be about raising up disciples who have sound Christian character. Building on the development of character, we should consider ways of being Good Samaritans, realizing that in many places, the missionary enterprise might have to take the shape of "doing" before hearers of the Word are able to be found.
Fifth, we believe the missionary enterprise should be solely designed to plant churches. This should be the number one criterion for where we invest time, money and talent. Furthermore, ministries that are not indigenous and self-supporting within a reasonable amount of time should be allowed to become what the New Testament commands, a mission taking care of its own and contributing to the overall mission of Christ on the earth. In the language of St. Paul, mission efforts are to be encouraged to mature from childhood to adulthood. This Biblical process also calls for the oversight of mission by the Apostles and their successors. Eventually these successor Bishops created dioceses, which were independent of but in communion with one another. This became the pattern for all successful mission throughout the history of the Church. It has been the model reproduced by the Reformed Episcopal Church in its expansion in the south to become the Diocese of the Southeast, and in the west, which has become the Diocese of Mid-America. This pattern has further become the model of the Missionary Diocese of U. S. Territories and Protectorates, which in its next stages must establish indigenous episcopal oversight. It should further be noted that this Apostolic model has proven its effectiveness in the flourishing results of the mission efforts of the Anglican Province of America in India and the Philippines.
We therefore call for the restructuring of mission according to the Biblical model. This restructuring must involve placing mission directly under a bishop and not a board. The role of the board is to support not to control or to direct. The support of the mature church should be in the areas of prayer, counsel, fellowship and acts of mercy. The encouragement and nurture of the Church to fulfill such responsibilities offers the opportunity for a board or committee to offer constructive, meaningful and acceptable contributions. With this Biblical approach to mission in mind, we also call for the making of indigenous bishops and the release of all mission from foreign control. These indigenous jurisdictions must become autonomous or be in communion with other faithful Anglican bodies. The creation of indigenous bishops and dioceses will of necessity bring to conclusion the need for the Diocese of U. S. Territories and Protectorates, or any other agency of the REC in North America to provide oversight of jurisdictions in another area of the world. We pledge ourselves to work with all mission agencies to achieve this restructuring. We will direct a coordinated effort to see that this Biblical model becomes the standard of our church.
As your Bishops, we come to you in prayer and humility, asking every parish to read this pastoral letter in whatever forum would be best suited to the local situation. Due to its length, for example, the letter could be read as a series of sermons or lessons in an adult education venue. After prayerfully studying and considering our teaching, we further ask you to unite with us in implementing the principles of the Great Commission in the Church. This will involve work at many levels, including raising money. It will demand much prayer, hard work and patience. In the end, we are convinced that if we follow the principles of the Great Commission, God will bless the Church as never before. In the Name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, Amen.
The Rt. Rev. Royal U. Grote
The Rt. Rev. Robert H. Booth
The Rt. Rev. James C. West
The Rt. Rev. Daniel R. Morse
The Rt. Rev. Charles Dorrington
The Rt. Rev. Michael Fedechko
The Rt. Rev. George B. Fincke
The Rt. Rev. Ray R. Sutton