Participants of the Indian Missional Conversation in Ranchi.
“Churches cannot be silent spectators when injustice prevails at various levels in societies. Missiology has to deviate from ‘Dogmatic Witness’ to ‘Prophetic Witness’, based on ‘Justice’; mission has to proclaim and practice ‘Justice with Love’, and respond to the problems of current societal realities. Hence, the Gospel of Christ has to directly confront social injustices, such as caste discrimination and other social divides,” affirmed the participants of the Indian Missional Conversation.
The Indian Missional Conversation was organised by the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) to provide a common platform for Indian Christian mission organisations and churches to reflect on the theme of the forthcoming Asia Mission Conference (AMC), ‘Journeying Together: Prophetic Witness to the Truth and Light, in Asia.’
The Asia Mission Conference will be organised by the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) in conjunction with the Diamond Jubilee of CCA in Yangon, Myanmar from 11 to 16 October 2017, which 400 participants from Asia and other parts of the world will attend.
Organised by the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) in collaboration with the Church of North India Chotanagpur Diocese, the National Missionary Society of India (NMSI), and the India Missions Association (IMA), the India Missional Conversation was attended by representatives of churches and mission organisations, including the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI), and the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), and was held on 23-24 August 2017 in Ranchi, the capital of the North Indian state, Jharkhand.
While introducing the draft of the Mission Statement of the AMC, Dr. Mamman Varkey, a member of the planning group of the AMC and statement drafting team stated, “60 years ago, when the churches in Asia, met for the first time in Prapat, Indonesia for a mission conference on the theme, ‘Our Common Evangelistic Tasks’, they affirmed to, ‘Life Together’. Now, after 60 years, when we meet again, we affirm and commit ourselves, in a more active, dynamic way, to ‘Journey Together’.
Recollecting the Asian ecumenical history, Prof. Mammen Varkey further stated that in Prapat, one participant had hoped that, “Prapat will become one of the places in ecumenical history to be remembered along with places like Edinburgh, Tambaram, Amsterdam, and Evanston. He added that, “Indeed, as Prapat became a significant milestone in ecumenical history; we do believe that Yangon, too, will be an unforgettable place in the global ecumenical history in the future.”
Prof. Mammen hoped that, “With indestructible hope, unchallengeable determination, unshakeable commitment and upholding the Spirituality of the Cross, let us resolve to ‘Journey Together’ and do ‘Prophetic Witnessing’; this will inaugurate a new era in mission.”
Bishop Dr. P. C. Singh, President of NCCI, in his address said that, “the Christian mission has contributed enormously to every walk of socio-religious life and has become an integral part of Indian societies. Indian history cannot be written without the contributions of the Christian missions and missionaries who upheld the values of dignity and love, and worked for the welfare of the marginalised and downtrodden.”
Reflecting upon the theme of the AMC, from the experiences of Indian missional perspectives, several participants articulated their firm convictions of the emerging challenges and the Indian churches’ missional responses to them.
Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad, General Secretary of NCCI, said that the mission movements of today should stand as ‘prophetic poles’ to ‘give needed emphasis’ to justice with love and passion as they participate in God’s mission.
Rev. Dr. D. B. Kulothungan of the India Missions Association (IMA), affirmed that a new journey has begun with faith and hope, and reassured everyone to commit and uphold the God-intended unity and fellowship. He said the mission has to be Christ-people-centric and not otherwise.
Rev. Dr. Richard Howell, General Secretary of the Asian Evangelical Alliance (AEA), raised a pertinent question, “With whom we are intending to journey together is a matter of concern, since our commitment to the Gospel cannot be compromised for the sake of being together.”
Rev. Sr. Teresa Joseph, Executive Secretary of Mission and Dialogue, Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI), described the Indian Missional Conversation as a modern-day Pentecostal experience, since several mission movements from various traditions have come together under one roof for the first time.
Sr. Teresa suggested that, “Dialogue could be a means to initiate a ‘faith journey’ together towards bearing common public witness and to serve societies at large, ignoring our ‘small’ differences.”
Rev. Dr. Theodore Srinivasagam of the India Missions Association (IMA) and a renowned Indian missiologist urged that the journey that we begin from now must be Christ-centred and Word-centred. While we journey together, we must bear a united witness publically to Christ and His Words, which itself is a mission.
Rev. Dr. Ngurliana, Programme Consultant for Mission in Unity and Contextual Theology of CCA stated that as we participate in God’s mission, we proclaim God’s message through the mission by listening while we accompany each other in our journey together. He further added that a paradigm shift is needed in our mission approach so that we bear witness not as masters but as servants. Our journey is not to be served but to serve people and society at large, which contains Jesus’ model of mission.
Rev. Maxcin John, Director of Mission and Evangelism of the Church of South India (CSI) espoused that, Christian missions are called to announce and realise the Reign of God, therefore, our ultimate aim is to build societies of resistance based on the values of Justice, Peace, Love and Hope.
Fr. Dr. Aloysius Ekka, SJ, Director of St. Xavier’s Institute of Social Service (XISS), said, Embodying the Spirituality of the Cross is a way of self-emptying. Popular theologies promote the Spirituality of the Cross mystically. However, the Spirituality of the Cross is nothing but registering Christian missional solidarities with marginalised communities who struggle to retain their lands, water, forests and natural resources from oppressive mechanisms. The Spirituality of the Cross is uniting and accompanying people to fight for their rights.
Fr. Dr. Christu Das, Director of Social Initiatives for Growth and Networking (SIGN), gave an inter-faith reading on the theme ‘Journeying Together’. He said, “Accepting and recognising each other as we are is a new spirituality in our faith journey. On many occasions, we look at each other as opposites with suspicion and envy. However, this new spirituality invites us to consider all as children of God.”
Rev. S. Christopher Vijayan, General Secretary of the National Missionary Society of India (NMSI), said, today’s missions has to address migration as a serious issue, and must treat migrants as God’s people and facilitate them to lead better lives by creating Christ-centred, non-sacramental communities to reflect the image of Christ.
Dr. William Stanley, a social and human rights activist expressed his anguish over the mission movements that consider the Dalits as ‘objects’ of their missional activities, therefore, claiming they adopt a mission to the Dalits. He further espoused that God’s preferential option is to be seen from the lives and status of the Dalits’, not from the oppressors’ eyes.
Mrs. Dhayamani Barla, renowned Adivasi activist, asked the mission movements about their missional responses towards women and children who are trafficked for sexual abuse and domestic labour from their missional areas. She further asked, when thousands of tribal youth are migrating to the cities as construction workers to sustain their daily lives, the tribal lands are subjected to the development causing displacement and mass migration, what kind of prophetic witness are mission movements contemplating and deliberating upon.
Around 100 delegates from 20 different Mission Boards and Organisations, 8 Church Mission Boards and 10 Ecumenical Organisations and 4 Regional Councils participated in this conversation.
In his closing remarks, Rev. Christopher Rajkumar, Executive Secretary for Mission and Evangelism of the NCCI, said that this was the first time that several mission organisations and special ministries of NCCI member churches, national mission organisations including, related mission bodies of the EFI and CBCI had come together on a common platform for a missional conversation.
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