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EFAC Australia

Mission

In 2005 the Church of England published Mission Shaped Church.1 The Report recognised the drastic need for renewed mission work in England, but also the creative work already being done by groups that would be labelled as Fresh Expressions of Church. This term came not from their new-ness, but from their missional orientation; they were seeking to fulfil the ordinal's instruction for the ordaining of priests to proclaim the gospel afresh to each generation. It also liberated the work of mission from just the priest to the Church – looking back to Jesus' great commission in Matthew 28. Some read value judgments in the language employed – surely to call something 'fresh' is to imply 'staleness' in what already exists,2 but this is a value judgment not inherent in the name, and this led to Archbishop William's description of Anglicanism as a mixed economy3 in which the inherited and the fresh forms of church are both welcome and needed. Amid early excitement, there was an Australian adoption with Building the Mission Shaped Church in Australia.4 Sadly, this enthusiasm has waned.

What defines a Fresh Expression of Church? The Church Army in England set out ten parameters in a 2013 report:

  1. That the group is new (in their terminology, it was 'birthed'), rather than being a modification of an existing group.
  2. The group has sought to engage with non-churchgoers. They are not simply a new outreach programme of an existing church, but a new church with and for the unchurched to meet their cultural context rather than expecting them to confirm to an existing church paradigm.
  3. The new church community would meet at least once a month.
  4. The new church is to have its own name that reflects its identity, or is in the process of discerning its public nomenclature.
  5. The group is intended to be a church in and of itself, rather than being a bridge back into 'real church'.
  6. The church is Anglican – by which they mean it is accepted by the relevant Bishop as part of their 'Diocesan family'. The report stresses that being Anglican is not measured by use of centrally authorised texts or by being part of the parochial system.
  7. There is a system of leadership acknowledged both internally by the church itself and also from without by the Diocese and wider community.
  8. The majority of members see the group as their primary and major expression of being church.
  9. The group aspires to live out the four 'marks' of the church.
  10. The church is intended to be self-financing, self-governing and self-reproducing (ie, mission-shaped churches plant more mission-shaped churches, which are to be themselves 'fresh' and not simply replicating the parent church).5

Tim Swan is CEO, the Archbishop of Sydney’s Anglican Aid

Right now, a terrifying number of pastors and teachers around the world are inadvertently leading their people astray because they lack solid biblical understanding, and are being “blown here and there by every wind of teaching.” (Eph 4:14). At the launch of Anglican Aid’s new Bible College Student Sponsorship program Rev. Samuel Majok said,

“In many cases, in Africa, pastors and teachers in the cities do not have any form of theological training. This has resulted in increasingly shallow theology. Leaving many local churches subject to .... errors. The pulpit has become the place to sell anointed oils, to sell holy water, to sell holy soils!”

We can help. We have the resources to make an impact on the developing church. One resource is those who can teach and train locals. I served in this way with the Anglican Church in Chile for 10 years.

Mark Simon with Louisa Afful, Sarah Hornidge and Kate Shrestha (Anglicare Sydney)

Mark Simon: All three of you are involved in cross cultural ministry through Anglicare. What are your particular roles?

Sarah Hornidge: I'm the Western Region crosscultural advisor. I support English as a Second Language (ESL) ministries in Western Sydney. Our team serves 100 church-based ESL classes through training, writing of resources, ongoing support for volunteers, and leading some classes myself.

Louisa Afful: As the Program Manager – Cross Cultural Services, I lead a team of eight Anglicare workers like Sarah active across all regions of Sydney and Wollongong in ESL ministry. We are also developing new initiatives to equip and support churches to widen their cross-cultural outreach beyond ESL with activities like cultural awareness training. The purpose of the team is to inspire, equip and support local churches as they reach out and respond practically to their multi-cultural communities and under God make Jesus known.

Kate Shrestha: I work in our church partnership team focused on Southwest Sydney, which is a very multicultural area. I work at building connections between churches and Anglicare, so that services like our mobile food pantry and family support programs are widely available.

Mark: What are some of the ways that churches you work with are reaching out to migrant and refugee communities?

The Karen people on the Thai/Myanmar border have been persecuted for over sixty years, mostly because they are Christians. They are a minority ethnic group who have been driven from their homes with many living in large 'resettlement (refugee) camps'.

Anglican ministry amongst the Karen began some decades ago through a few trained evangelists who travelled through the jungles and villages of both the Thai and Myanmar sides of the border, establishing churches. These churches are together known as the KAMB – Karen Anglican Mission at the Border. They remain isolated from the resources of their official diocese, which is in Myanmar.

Christ Church Bangkok has been co-ordinating emergency supplies for the Karen since 1984, focussing upon the needs of the Karen refugees living inside the camps, but also supporting the Karen churches in the Thai border area, bringing training and encouragement to leaders.

Evangelicals have traditionally been socially engaged, in faithfulness to biblical requirements to do justice and to show compassion for those suffering, and as a missional necessity, to demonstrate that we have good works to match our faith. A faith that is lived out, among and for others, is what it means to be a Christian. Evangelical faith is Christological in that Christ is proclaimed as Saviour and we do everything we can to save persons in body, mind, and soul and to bring into the warm embrace of Christ himself. This is why we do things like advocate for action on climate change, run Alpha courses, support refugees, have a Church Missionary Society, oppose the predatory gambling lobby, fund City Bible Forums, and have Anglican Overseas Aid. So, for us evangelicals, our evangelistic energy goes hand in hand with our social concerns, advocacy, and programs.

One problem is the temptation to focus on one or the other. To be an Alpha-Church or a tearfund church. To focus on the evangelistic side or to go all in on social action. A false dichotomy if you ask me, but the temptation is real for either side. But even for those of us who believe in a healthy balance, declaring the word of the gospel while donning the apron of a servant, even our social advocacy/actions face the temptation of being politically partisan.

For me, personally, my two social action passion projects are advocacy for destroying the gambling lobby and advocating for religious freedom. The former aligns neatly with the political left and the later sits more squarely with the political right. It means I get some curious glances from people.

My Tear Fund friends love my opposition to the gambling barons but look at me with confusion and disgust as if I might be a quasi-fascist if I retweet an Australian Christian Lobby article about religious freedom. By the same token, my Australian Christian Lobby friends incorporate my voice into the religious freedom debate but look at me with suspicion that I might be a Marxist sympathiser if I post on Facebook critical of the Liberal party’s stance on refugees and climate change.

I think most evangelicals are committed to a program of social action, and we each have our own pet causes, the one’s that burn our hearts with righteous rage or fill us with pity for those suffering. The temptation is that our interest in social action is exercised partly as an outworking of Christian faith, but partly as a way of aligning ourselves with particular political tribes. The temptation is then, that our social ethic becomes tied less to the Christian church and more to the political tribes that we resonate with. My thesis is that our social engagements, balanced with our promotion of the gospel, must never be neatly aligned with any political tribe, whether conservative or progressive. Otherwise we run the risk that our social action becomes more an act of political affiliation than Christian action.

We are compelled by the love of God to proclaim the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ. And it is our Lord himself who tells us to care for the poor, to show mercy, and to act justly. Social action and social justice are a necessity. But let us not get fall into the temptation of engaging in the social action that is trendy on social media or presages our status in a political tribe.

Let justice roll down like a river, irrespective if those rivers break towards the left or to the right.

MikeBird

 

 

Michael Bird is Academic Dean and Lecturer in New Testament at Ridley

The wild, wide open spaces of the north of Western Australia make a big impression. Eugenie Harris sends us a postcard from the Diocese of North West Australia.

Arriving in the Diocese of the North West, my first impression was of ‘Australia on steroids’. Everything seems extreme. We’ve got the busiest port, the hottest town, most isolated community, most dramatic gorges…and the list goes on, because the region effectively powers our nation.
This vast land area draws people from all over the world, people chasing their fortune, pursuing travel experiences or escaping unhappy life circumstances. And the Diocese of the North West welcomes them all, taking every opportunity to proclaim the good news of Jesus. We are truly ‘bringing the gospel to the nations’.

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