The archbishops have mission on their minds.
In their charge, delivered this afternoon, they marvelled at the initiative and courage of those 19thcentury heroes of faith who laid the foundations for the church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.
And in their light, the archbishops considered how the church can be “creative and courageous” in meeting the challenges it faces now, as it seeks to be faithful “in a time of unpredictable and exponential change.”
As they looked at the example of Ruatara and Marsden, for example, they saw “clear principles of sharing the gospel in mission which can inform our sharing of the gospel in mission in our time.”
These included friendship evangelism, holistic mission, invitation and hospitality, friendship and family-based networks, the sharing of dreams and hopes between mission partners – with mission grounded “in prayer and active hope.”
The archbishops quoted the late South African missiologist David Bosch: “To participate in mission,” he wrote, “is to participate in the movement of God’s love toward people, since God is the fountain of sending love.”
And they summed up their thinking, and their hopes for the church they lead, in this way:
“We look for a church which can be vibrant, joyful, generous, hospitable, and open-hearted.
“A church that seeks partnership in mission across tikanga.
“A church which will be unafraid of asking questions, an intelligent, hopeful and confident church because we know that nothing is outside of God’s power and God’s love.
“Our church communities will be known for offering stimulating opportunities to grow in faith and for beautiful and engaging worship.
“Above all, we look for a church that is faithful to our servant Lord and reflects God’s call to the creation of a community of justice and equity.”
They called their charge “A Voyage of Faith.” And having broadly sketched their theme, the archbishops then took a closer look at how the church has outworked mission in various places within the province over the two years since the synod last met.
And it’s significant that they chose to draw attention first to Urban Vision, the Wellington-based movement that is now officially linked to the Diocese of Wellington – and from whose ranks the newly-ordained Bishop of Wellington, Justin Duckworth, has sprung.
They noted Urban Vision’s focus on “the least, the last and the lost” – and they read the quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, which adorns the Urban Vision website:
“The renewal of the church” the martyr theologian had written, “will surely come from a new type of monasticism – which has nothing in common with the old, but a complete lack of compromise in a life lived in accordance with the Sermon on the Mount, in the discipleship of Christ.
“It is high time,” Bonhoeffer wrote, “men and women bonded together to do this.”
The archbishops noted that Urban Vision is part of a “growing spiritual movement in the West seeking to put the Kingdom first, expressed through new communities of monastic-type discipleship roughly referred to as a ‘new monasticism’.”
They then roamed far and wide across the church, politics, the environment, the worldwide scene – and touched on the disasters that have befallen some parts of the province since the 2010 synod.
Here, they paid particular tribute to the leadership that the two Anglican Bishops living in Christchurch have offered Anglicans living in that quake-stricken city.
“Bishop Victoria Matthews and Bishop John Gray,” they said, “have shown exemplary courage, pastoral care and leadership for their people during this very difficult time.”
They quoted a message Bishop Victoria had written to the Diocese of Christchurch as she reflected upon the wrecked cathedral she once presided in:
“We are a resurrection people,” she wrote. “No amount of death and destruction will defeat us.”
To be more Christ-like
At the end of their charge, the archbishops gave thanks for the ministry of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who will step down shortly after he chairs the 15th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council, which meets in Auckland in November.
They quoted from the published Anglican Communion report Continuing Indaba – Celebrating a Journey, which further muses on the possibilities of the method of conversation first used at the 2008 Lambeth Conference of bishops:
“Participants do not report they are now more liberal,or more conservative.They are reporting that they are being challenged to be more Christ-like, to get on with mission and to discover more of the wonders of being a follower of Christ on a journey with others.”
No doubt that quote also speaks of the archbishops’ longings, not just for the week ahead but for the church they lead.
Because they finished their charge with an utterance of hope: May it be for us in these islands also– and a timeless Anglican petition, delivered in six languages, here quoted in English:
God of love
Grant our prayer.