Archdiocese of Chicago

Catholic Chicago Blog

Monday, June 28, 2010

Mission from everywhere to everywhere

By Carmen Aguinaco

In 1910 the First World Missionary Conference was held in Edinburgh and heralded the beginning of the ecumenical movement worldwide. This year, the World Missionary Conference Edinburgh 2010, marking the Centennial, closed in the same hallowed hall of the University of Edinburgh. Participants might have expected to be greeted by bagpipes and traditional Protestant songs. Instead, a combined African choir belonging to the three churches of Scotland welcomed them.  This apparently insignificant detail becomes a symbol of the total revolution that has taken place in the missiology and ecclesiology of the last century. For starters, Edinburgh 2010 counted on the participation of groups that had never been invited: Pentecostals, Evangelicals, Orthodox, peoples of the "Global South", women, and youth.

The sense of inclusiveness also denotes a deeper concept of mission. There has been a great change in the sense of hospitality that is not only extended from host to guest, but also in reverse: it is the sense of mission "from everywhere to everywhere". It reflects the conviction that mission is part of the DNA of Christ’s church.

Another substantial change is the demographics of the church. The fact that the majority of believers in today’s world don’t come from the rich nations, but from the poor ones constitutes, in a way, a return to the church of the poor where it is precisely people who are poor the ones who have top lay a leadership role in the church.

In the face of the new reality, and of the advances of technology, it seems natural that the new church also works through networks, cooperation. United in mission is not just a spiritual slogan, but also a necessity of the times.

Another profound change has been that of the spirituality of mission. The different groups like to call it a "transformative spirituality", one that seeks healing and reconciliation, and that works for social justice and change.

Truly, much remains to be done in the ecumenical work. But the fact that, on June 6 300 people, from the most varied confessions, races, corners of the earth, and ages could agree on nine points of a joint statement of mission is reason to rejoice greatly. We are on the way.