The Mission Problem

Ok–one more quick thought. It’s about mission. One of the key problems that people aren’t owning up to–or, at least, aren’t owning up to well–is the problem that we are not working in anything even vaguely approaching a homogenous mission field. Precisely the thing that some people want and need to hear and to bring them to the Gospel is what will drive someone else away. The unchurched and dechurched people with whom I interact on a daily basis are–let’s face it–disgusted with the notion of instutionalized prejudice. And that’s how most of them see certain Christian attitudes towards women and gay and lesbian people. There are others with whom I interact far less often who are–let’s face it–disgusted with the notion that God approves things like women priests or gay and lesbian couples receiving the Eucharist together.

In a sense the Global South has it easier–their cultures *seem* (to an outsider in any case) to be more homogenous than the Western context. Thus, they know what to say when in order for the Gosple to be heard.

We’re in a much different place. I’d love for the Church to move ahead in mission–but it’s a pushme-pullyou kind of thing, isn’t it?

[And I know some reading this may be thinking–no, it’s not about “casting the message” a certain way, it’s just about bold proclamation and let the chips fall where they may! But let me tell as a teacher of rhetoric and preaching–it doesn’t work that way… Even simply picking up the Bible and reading aloud as an act of proclamation contains a host of rhetocial and theological decisions.]

Who knows–maybe a divided Anglican witness may be able to spread the gospel more effectively than a unified one…though I’d hate to see it come to that.


About Derek Olsen

I'm a layman within the Episcopal Church with a PhD in New Testament and an interest in most things medieval, monastic, and liturgical. My chief job is keeping up with my priestly wife and our two awesome kids. In addition to that, I earn a living, run the St Bede's Breviary, listen to loud goth/industrial music, and do some stuff for the church. I currently serve as Secretary to the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music where I'm also co-chair of the Calendar committee and chair of the Digital Publications committee.
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9 Responses to The Mission Problem

  1. Annie says:

    I have been pondering this problem. The “conservative” faction Itself is divided on key issues. They are struggling with divisioni in their own ranks as they try to remain strong for a unified schism.

    I think this whole entire mess is lack of faith. It isn’t anything new. When have we ever managed to understand that the solution is through faith? Or else the prophecies that God is destroying the brick and mortar churches are true.

    I think that maybe they have humanized God too much. Or maybe the concept of a personal God has deteriorated to the point that they make God into what they want God to be. Or they are confused about who serves who. Or playing church. It is one big social club with the “IN crowd” in control. I’m considering compiling a list of new definitions for sin and, most especially, for what is no longer sin.

    I’m so disgusted right now.

  2. Derek the Ænglican says:

    I think that maybe they have humanized God too much. Or maybe the concept of a personal God has deteriorated to the point that they make God into what they want God to be. Or they are confused about who serves who. Or playing church. It is one big social club with the “IN crowd” in control.

    Oh–but this is accurate for *both* sides. And has been for as long as the Church has existed as an institution… There is our perennial danger and the reason why we need (relatively) objective externals like the Scriptures and the historic liturgies. Living in these is one of the few wards against remaking the Trinity and the Church into our own idol–the quintessential human sin.

  3. Annie says:

    I agee. I meant to imply both sides when I said, “I think the entire mess …” Seeing it as two sides is denying the basket of goods each one of us carries around as a belief-system. No two of us believes the same thing.

    I’m still reeling over the discovery of that quintessential human sin.

  4. Anastasia says:

    I think it’s probably misleading to suggest that cultures are more homogeneous in the global south, but i can’t exactly adduce evidence to the contrary.

    i’m going to write you an email about your chapter and about stuff. i’m having the strangest two weeks in the history of the ever right now.

  5. Derek the Ænglican says:

    I agree on the GS thing. I think we only see part of the picture.

    Looking forward to the email–I’ve heard nothing about the chapter from various folks who have it and have started to panic about it. 😉

    It sounds like you’ve been having *a time*…

  6. Annie says:

    Don’t panic when readers drag their feet. It means nothing.

    Take that from the world’s worst procrastinator!

  7. LutheranChik says:

    Somewhat tangential, but…someone recently asked me for information on mission organizations that are “fairly liberal” and “not real evangelical (I knew what he meant) or fundamentalist” — and I honestly had to do some digging to help him out. I hope that isn’t a reflection of the courage of our convictions.

  8. Derek the Ænglican says:

    I’ve found that many liberal Christians are too afraid of offending others or imposing their views or appearing as if they have a claim to ultimate truth to share their faith well. Relativism really is a problem here. After all, if your way to the truth is just as valid as mine than there’s not really any point in us talking ’cause you’ll get there your way and I’ll get there mine…

    As non-pushy evangelists I think we have to own up to the fact that:
    1) all ways really aren’t valid,
    2) we’re exploring a way that works for us–and that has been helping and liberating (*and* oppressing) people for 2,000 years, and
    3) not being God, we still don’t have the ultimate truth but we do have the Bible, the liturgy, and the Sacraments to help us find our way to the real resurrected Jesus.

    That having been said, the single best summary of the faith I know is–the Creed. Why don’t we figure out how to us it effectively in faith-sharing?

  9. bls says:

    I haven’t looked at it very closely yet, but notice of this came in an email from ENS today.

    They actually use the “E” word!

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