Unity and mission

Edinburgh 2010 World Missionary Conference

A joyful and liberating African chant closed the World Missionary Conference, which brought together in Edinburgh from June 2 to 6 some 300 delegates representing all Christian denominations from all over the world. The Churches called the conference to celebrate the centenary of the first major ecumenical conference on missions, held in the Scottish capital city in 1910. For one week, the delegates addressed the challenges for missions in the 21st century, with workshops and panel meetings. The Conference ended with the live transmission of the solemn ecumenical celebration held in the Hall of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh, historical seat of the World Missionary Conference in 2010. At the end, members representing the five continents read a Common Call to all the Churches, “to witness Christ by participating in the mission of love of God”.The Call. “With a renewed sense of urgency, we are called to incarnate and proclaim the good news of salvation, of forgiveness of sin, of life in abundance, and of liberation for all poor and oppressed”, is written in the statement. “We are challenged to witness and evangelism in such a way that we are a living demonstration of the love, righteousness and justice that God intends for the whole world”. The Call thus becomes an appeal to Church unity. “Recalling Christ, the host at the banquet, and committed to that unity for which he lived and prayed, we are called to ongoing co-operation, to deal with controversial issues and to work towards a common vision. We are challenged to welcome one another in our diversity, affirm our membership through baptism in the One Body of Christ, and recognise our need for mutuality, partnership, collaboration and networking in mission, so that the world might believe”. We can and must collaborate. The Catholic Church delegation led by Msgr. Brian Farrell of the Pontifical Council for the promotion of Christian Unity was also present in Edinburgh and conveyed the formal greetings of Pope Benedict XVI. “May [the Endinburgh Conference] renew our commitment to work humbly and patiently, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to live again together our common apostolic heritage”, states the message by the Holy Father”. At the end of the Conference, Msgr. Farell answered questions by participants and underlined that mission is “a commandment” and “unity is a prayer. The mission has always taken place within the Church, and unity has always been the quest of the Church” that we must call for today as a “gift of the Holy Spirit”. Drawing a balance of the days in Edinburgh Msgr. Farrell said: “the beautiful experience granted by the Conference consists in the fact of being together, working together and envisioning new common projects for the future, notwithstanding major differences that may cause divisions between us, such as the way in which the Churches practice their discernment on moral questions. But we can cooperate despite the differences. Fortunately the ecumenical movement has overcome the idea that our differences prevent our mutual cooperation.” The purpose of the Edinburgh Conference – continued Msgr. Farrel – was not to solve the more controversial “knots” in the ecumenical dialogue. Indeed, the Conference is “a stop in our journey that has enabled us to draw new force. These conferences are necessary even when they do not lead to conclusive outcomes. They help us progress together as the Body of Christ and this is what is most important”. What new possibilities for evangelization were identified over the past days? “Strategies don’t count”, the Catholic prelate replied – what counts is to return to the Gospel, recovering a more profound spirituality”. Despite the differences. Of the same advice, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, Norwegian pastor, secretary general of the World Council of Churches said, “We are here to remind ourselves that we should not divide our calling, but we should share our calling. He underlined the churches’ shared concerns for common witness, the preservation of God’s creation, social justice and peace”. “We have all received the same gift, and we share the same calling,” he added. “We share a joint responsibility before the world”, he added. This acknowledgement was brought up on several occasions during the conference. It was highlighted as a fact also by Dana Robert, from Boston University, one of the major world experts in the history of the mission. “We musn’t let theological disagreements or complex theological, social, cultural and political questions prevent us from witnessing the love of God and the redemption of Christ in the contemporary world”. “A century ago, the participants in World Missionary Conference reflected on evangelising the world of their own generation. All of us living in 2010 ought to bring Christian witness to our generation”.

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