Paradigm Pioneers

Paradigm Pioneers

N. Gordon Cosby

The majority of people are settlers. They like to settle a land pioneered by others. There are fewer paradigm shifters and paradigm pioneers, those who are ready, and sometimes even eager, to enter the new. The biblical understanding is that the new is always beckoning us. God, by definition, is "One who does a new thing." And our desperate need is for the new. A new neighborhood. A new city. A new world which respects and honors and cares for all of its people. The paradigm shifters and the pioneers are the ones who lead us into that newness.

Source: Sermon by Gordon Cosby (September 7 1989) as quoted in a daily e-mail from Inward-Outward, a ministry of Church of the Savior in Washington, DC.

Photo: sunset over San Juan Islands March 2010

Jesus brings the world from the abyss

"Jesus comes out of the water, drawing the world with him, as it were, and raising it up when it had hitherto been sunk in the abyss...." -Gregory of Nazianzus, Fourth Century.

"A Christian parish becomes its best self when it accepts the challenge of community. The parish community, as the real expression of a local church, cannot limit its attention to the search for justice and intimacy among its own members; it must be prepared to take up the cross, standing against evil and injustice wherever they exist in the world...."

-Nathan Mitchell, Liturgy, vol. 1, no. 2, 1980. Quoted in A Christmas Sourcebook (Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1984), p. 146.

"The heart of Christianity is the self-emptying, kenotic humility of God expressed in Jesus the Christ... At the heart of God's humility is this: God willingly is wounded."

-Maggie Ross, Seasons of Death and Life: A Wilderness Memoir. San Francisco, Harper and Row, 1990.

Image: The Baptism, Menologion of Basil II, p. 299, late 10th or early 11th cent.

The Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ to the Gentiles

"A star burned in the sky more brightly than all the others; its light was indescribable, its newness marvelous, and all the other stars, along with the sun and the moon, formed a chorus around this star, the light of which reached farther than that of any other.... Then all magic was destroyed, and every bond wrought by wickedness was broken, and the ancient kingdom was razed. When God appeared in human form to bring the newness of eternal life, his counsel began to be fulfilled."

-Ignatius of Antioch, Second century.


"...In this strange land, amid these unfamiliar faces,
there is a way to see the Epiphany:
the way of the magi, of the strangers who came in from the night.
It is to see ourselves and to recognize our condition
in these otherwise alien people.
It is to know ourselves compacted with them in a common destiny,
the destiny of children marked for death,
heirs of the promise through the Child marked for death.

Before such mutual recognition, all estrangement pales.
Whatever our differences in life, we are bound together in death:
that is our common lot.
And this is the promise we rejoice in with them:
that with them we are co-heirs of life in Jesus Christ,
the Child marked for death...."

From "A Sermon for Epiphany" by Mark Searle, Worship 58:4


Herod, why this impiety?
Can Christ awake anxiety?
He'll let your little kingdom live
who has immortal crowns to give.

Vespers hymn
Divine Office
Roman Rite


Icon: Adoration of the Magi, Historic Museum in Sanok, Poland

The Song of Mary as Overture to Jesus' Baptism

As we approach the remembrance of the Baptism of Our Lord, I think back to a sermon I preached on the Fourth Sunday of Advent on the Magnificat, the Song of Mary. Let's not forget the Song of Mary as we continue the cycle of the Liturgical Year and hear again the proclamation of the Gospel According to Luke. Her Song sounded the themes Luke explores, and which appear in Jesus' post-baptismal announcement of his own ministry in Luke 4:14-21. As we seek to be faithful to Jesus' ministry in our own place and time, the Song of Mary sounds the themes that inform and empower our ministry in the world.

Advent 4, Year C December 20, 2009

If you've gone to an opera or a performance of an oratorio such as Handel's Messiah, you've heard an overture.

In musical terms, an overture is the first music you hear at such a performance. It is the prelude or introduction to what is to follow. It helps get you in the mood for the story, and may begin to sound themes that will be heard throughout the performance.

I always love hearing the opening measures of the overture to Handel's Messiah. It sets a certain solemn and joyful mood, with a promise of musical and textual riches to follow.

Today we sing and we hear the Magnificat; known to us also as the "Song of Mary". As you hear and sing the Magnificat today, you're hearing the overture to God's great work of Incarnation.

The words of the song come to us from the mouth of Mary, a young pregnant teenage girl of a backwater town in a backwater part of the Roman Empire, while on a visit to see her cousin Elizabeth. Mary, recently visited by an angel of God with startling news about the child she would bear, simply must be with someone with whom she can stay awhile and talk things over, and so to Elizabeth she journeys for companionship and strength. Elizabeth, seeing her arrival, is filled with the Holy Spirit and is the first to say "Hail Mary, full of grace, blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb."

This joyful greeting calls forth Mary's response in song, and what a powerful song Mary sings.

We Episcopalians and Anglicans most frequently hear and recite this Song of Mary at Evening Prayer or Evensong, dressed in our nice vestments, and then we go home to a nice dinner and a comfortable bed.

That nice comfortable setting should not blind us to the text itself, which speaks to us from a culture quite different than ours.

In his book on Mary, Scott McKnight tells us that the government of Guatemala during the 1980's forbade the public recitation of the Song of Mary, fearing that its recitation would incite unrest and uprising among peasants of that country. Small wonder this is so.

Listen to the text, this time in the rendition of Eugene Peterson's The Message:

"I'm bursting with God-news;
I'm dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
I'm the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
on those who are in awe before him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,
scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It's exactly what he promised,
beginning with Abraham and right up to now."

Those Guatemalan peasants recognized in Mary's song the announcement of God's favor to them, and those powerful men who ruled Guatemala for their own ends also recognized in those words a threat to those who would rule the people apart from the fear of God.

Mary's context in singing her song is that of the rule of Herod the Great, appointed King of Judaea by the Roman Emperor; a ruler who had to fight to subdue his kingdom; who built the Great Temple in Jerusalem from the excessive taxation of the peasantry. Her song, if heard by an emissary of Herod, would have placed her under suspicion as well.

It's a song full of courage and steadfast hope in a God who delivers the poor from the hand of the oppressor; a song worthy of the great songs before it in Scripture: the Song of Moses, the Song of Miriam, the Song of Hannah.

And as you hear Luke's Gospel go forward into the Nativity story itself, you see that Mary's Song is a prelude to a Gospel that expresses what can be described as a Great Reversal of the categories of power and glory in this world.

In this sense, a secondary meaning of the word "overture" comes to mind; defined as "an opening or initiating move toward negotiations, a new relationship, an agreement, etc.; a formal or informal proposal or offer."

The Spirit of God in the mouth of Mary is declaring God's new relationship with us; God's new agreement. From this day forth God chooses to empty himself to join the human race. We, who have been unable to save ourselves, will find God among us, suffering with us, identifying with our every weakness, suffering at our hand, and redeeming our lives by forgiveness.

As another preacher puts it:

"When the congregation sings or says this song in the liturgy, taking Mary’s words as its own, we in our time and place are included in the work of the Great Reversal, we in our time and place are included in the bringing-forth of blessing that feeds the hungry and lifts up the lowly and transforms the distribution of power."

A little later in this service we’ll again sing words from the Magnificat paraphrased by Timothy Dudley-Smith:

“Tell out, my soul, the greatness of his might/ Powers and dominions lay their glory by/ Proud hearts and stubborn wills are put to flight/ The hungry fed, the humble lifted high.” (Hymnal 1982 #437)

May God make us more worthy of the Song we sing today, empowering our service to Mary’s Son.

Image: Dansk: Kalkmaleri i Ballerup Kirke, Korsfæstelsen, Maria og Johannes ved korsets fod. Gunnar Bach Pedersen, photographer.

How do we tell the Christmas Story?

In a post on Thinking Anglicans, Simon Kershaw has some thoughts on how we tell the story of Christmas, and what difference our telling makes.

He begins with this borrowed verse:

"They sold me a dream of Christmas
They sold me a Silent Night
And they told me a fairy story
Till I believed in the Israelite."

(words by Peter Sinfield from Greg Lake’s 1975 Christmas record)

He continues:

"If your Christmas has been anything like mine you’ve heard quite a number of tellings of the birth of Christ over the last few weeks. Sentimental, imagined, romantic, harmonized, fictionalized, sanitized and idealized — that sums up so many of them."

"...Do we, in telling the story this way, conspire with our hearers to perpetuate a fairy story? Do we perpetuate the idea that the birth of Jesus is a fairy story, just a fairy story, something that — like the idea of Father Christmas or the tooth fairy — parents use to encourage children to be sweet and good? But something which we fully expect them to grow out of by the time they are 10, and see that it is just a fairy story that they have listened to uncritically and can discard uncritically?"

For more of Simon's post, go here.

Now, if this whets your appetite for a deeper understanding of the challenge of Luke's Nativity Story for us, you could do worse than read what Vernard Eller writes.

Here's Eller's summary statement:

"Luke and the people of his story celebrated the coming of Jesus Christ because it was a promise of the future of Jesus Christ. And for us too the proper stance toward Christmas is not to look back toward Bethlehem but, with them, to look through the stable into the Kingdom of God.

Glory to God among the highest!
And on earth peace,
Among men, delight!
Our Lord, come!"

Image: Geburt Christi. c. 1490, Geertgen tot Sint Jans (National Gallery, London).

In the Name of Jesus


(30 December 1934)

Merciful God, who raised up your servant Frances Joseph-Gaudet to work for prison reform and the education of her people: Grant that we, encouraged by the example of her life, may work for those who are denied the fullness of life by reasons of incarceration and lack of access to education ; through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

In the week following the Feast of the Nativity on Christmas Day our calendar gives us celebrations of St. Stephen, Deacon and Martyr; St. John, Apostle and Evangelist, the Holy Innocents, and Thomas Becket.

Then, on New Year's Day, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. The name of "Jesus" is given to him because he is a "Savior" or "Deliverer". That from which we are delivered is our sins, corporate and individual, things done and left undone.

The sin of the world is on display in Herod's condemnation of the Holy Innocents and in the continued willingness of tyrants in to sacrifice the lives of babes and children and women and men. Under Domitian's persecution John was exiled to Patmos where he experienced the visions of the Book of the Revelation; that strong witness to the triumph of God over domination and empire. The sin of the world leads to the martyrdom of Stephen at the hands of religious zealots and the cold-blooded murder of a faithful priest in the Cathedral precincts.

Over the sin of the world the Holy Name of Jesus is triumphant, because he delivers by the power of Love. That triumph is known in the lives of Stephen the Martyr, the John the Divine, and Thomas Becket. They refused to bow to the world's ways, and they did so in the power of the Holy Name of Jesus.

To this illustrious line-up we can now add the name of Frances Joseph-Gaudet, a remarkable holy woman from Louisiana who gave her life energy for the cause of prisoners and the disadvantaged youth of her time. When you consider the time and place in which she lived, you have to know what a courageous leader she must have been. Read more about her here and here.

For a powerful story written in her own hand about an early encounter with a prisoner, go here.

Frances Joseph-Gaudet acted in the Holy Name of Jesus in a very worthy way, changing many lives. Her work continues, and you can read about that here.

May God strengthen us in the Name of Jesus to continue her work in our own place and time.

image of cellblock: Dylan Oliphant, LaMarque, U.S.A.

A Christmas Message

Christmas Eve 2009 St. Paul’s Church, Bellingham, WA

Dear friends, Merry Christmas.

Some years ago the book Children’s Letters to God was published, and it contained this gem:

Dear God,
Are you real? Some people don't believe it. If you are, you'd better do something quick.
—Love, Harriet Anne[i]

Harriet Anne speaks for all of us at some time or other, even those of us who proclaim publicly our faith. We all at times wonder where God is when the latest outrage hits the front page, or when sudden calamity strikes nearby.

Harriet Anne asks the question that summarizes the Advent Season, the season of waiting for God’s deliverance.

“You’d better do something quick”, Harriet Anne insists. Implicit here is her understanding that we cannot seem to save ourselves from ourselves.

The twentieth-century mystic Simone Weil agrees.

“We cannot take one step towards the heavens. God crosses the universe and comes to us.”[ii]

Tonight the Season of Advent is ended for another year, and we celebrate beginning tonight the Season of the Incarnation; Christmas. Tonight Holy Church joyfully proclaims that God has come in all the active goodness and compassion of Jesus of Nazareth. Because of this, we call him Jesus Christ: Jesus the “anointed one” of God, who in himself is the very fullness of God in bodily form.

It is true, as Harriet Anne observes, that some people don’t believe this. This may be due to the distressing humility of God’s coming. He comes, not with the right hand of power to force us. To so come would be merely to satisfy our projections onto God. He comes with the mysterious left-handed power of love, by which he teaches us that the only answer to our predicament is sacrificial love for one another.

The Anglican mystic Maggie Ross makes this observation about the character of God as revealed in Jesus:

“The heart of Christianity is the self-emptying, kenotic humility of God expressed through Jesus Christ…. At the heart of God’s humility is this: God willingly is wounded.” [iii]

This humility of God’s coming begins right in our story. There is no room for his birth in the inn; Mary must give birth to him in a manger with the cattle standing by. And as Jesus grows up and begins his ministry, we will see again and again the humility of God, going right through cross and grave to resurrection life. God is with us as one who knows our weakness, our sadness, our longing for home, our sometimes secret knowledge that we are helpless apart from someone loving us.

So God is among us. God crosses the heavens to come to us. This is cause for rejoicing and celebration, friends. This is cause to renew our response to this generosity.

Harriet Anne’s challenge to God was this:

“You’d better do something quick.”

It’s a good challenge for us. The Book of Common Prayer tells us the meaning of this season is that God gives us power to become Children of God.

The world is waiting – whether all realize it or not – for us to become children of God. When we do, the world’s dark night of sin and alienation recedes.

So let’s do something quick.

Let’s receive him, so that at his coming tonight he’ll find room. Let's receive him, for the power to become children of God.

Oh Thou, whose glorious, yet contracted light,

Wrapt in night’s mantle, stole into a manger;

Since my dark soul and brutish is thy right,

To man of all beasts be not thou a stranger:

Furnish and deck my soul, that thou mayst have

A better lodging, than a rack*, or grave.[iv]


[i][i] Children’s Letters to God, by Stuart Hample and Eric Marshall. (Workman Publishing, 1991).

[ii] Quoted in Seeds of the Spirit: Wisdom of the TwentiethCentury. Ed.Richard H. Bell with Barbara L. Battin.(Westminster John Knox Press, 1995), p 108.

[iii] Ibid, p. 108.

[iv] Christmas 1 1by George Herbert from “The Temple”. The Classics of Western Spirituality. (New York, Paulist Press, 1981), p. 198-199.

image: Madonna and Child with four saints by Alvise Vivarini (Gallera Nazionale della Marche, Urbino)

Virtual Advent Calendar

Trinity Church Wall Street has considerable resources at their disposal, and this virtual Advent Calendar is one of their offerings. I commend it to you as a way to see something of the breadth of the ways in which people are responding to Christ in various places around the Episcopal Church. I must say I don't like the title "Creating the Kingdom of God". I don't like "Building the Kingdom of God", either; a phrase I see widely used. Perhaps someone can illumine me otherwise, but it seems to me God and God alone creates the Kingdom of God through the agency of Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit. We can receive it as little children, we can seek the kingdom of God and it's righteousness, but I really don't believe we either "create" it or "build" it. Anyway, that quibble aside, there's value in following this.

Click here to see calendar

First Sunday of Advent

Jennifer spoke to me at the door of the vestry just before the 10:30 Eucharist on the First Sunday of Advent. There had been a shooting in Tacoma this morning: four police officers were dead. Could we pray about this in the Prayers of the People?

We were praying the Great Litany as the entrance, which on such occasions replaces the Prayers of the People. So we observed a moment of silence before we began the procession to remember those who had died, those in shock and mourning, and those caring for people in these dreadful circumstances.

The words of the Litany had special meaning as reached this petition:

“…from violence, battle, and murder; and from dying suddenly and unprepared, Good Lord, deliver us.”

Fr. Chuck’s sermon stressed the counter-cultural call of the Church to Advent observance. We’re called to wait, he said, to develop in our waiting a deeper appreciation for Christ’s Advent. Like Lent and Holy Week, which deepen our appreciation for the suffering of Christ on behalf of ourselves and the whole world, Advent prepares us to appreciate the gift of Jesus’ birth to show us a fully graced human life in union with God.

As I arrived home after the morning of church there was a telephone call. A ninety-eight-year-old woman had just died in her bed next to a window overlooking the gray sea. I’d visited her earlier in the week at the request of a clergy colleague from down south. I drove to the house and presided over last rites, then talked with the family awhile. Two grandsons were there; small boys. They had questions about cremation, which grandma had requested in her will. They just weren’t sure about that. Cremation involves fire, one of them said, and fire is associated with hell. They didn’t want grandma in hell. What did I think?

I quoted the Apostles’ Creed from Rite 1:

“…He descended into hell. The third day he rose again from the dead.”

This is a case where the wording of Rite 1 comes in handy. “He descended into hell” just comes off stronger than “he descended to the dead” in a moment like this. “We needn’t be afraid of hell”, I said. “Because if there’s a hell, Jesus already visited it and ran off with all the locks to hell’s doors. “There is no place God’s love can’t reach us”, I said, “including hell.”

The boys seemed comforted. I pray they are. I'm concerned that there are those who need this kind of basic theological help and don't readily get it.

Sunday evening St. Paul’s choir presented Advent Lessons and Carols. We heard a grand sweep of narrative from across biblical history speaking of God’s faithfulness to Creation. “O come, Desire of nations, bind in one the hearts of all mankind”, we sang; “bid thou our sad divisions cease, and be thyself our King of Peace.”

This morning before I left on retreat I saw the spread in the Seattle Times on the murders of four Lakewood Police officers in a coffee shop as they sat undefended and unexpectant. The terrible evil of it shouted at me from the page.

The Christian message is that God in Christ embraces the whole world. God in Christ stares right into the face of evil. God is now present in the midst of the terror and unspeakable grief and anger and shock and dismay left in the wake of one man’s murderous, hellish act. God is present in compassion.

What we wait for in Advent is for the full end of suffering and reproach and violence and hatred. We await the return in triumph of Christ, who is the fullness of God's compassion in human form. We await the reign of peace he inaugurated.

In the meantime, we wait, and we hope, and we do what we can to spread this Good News that God is Love. We need it. The world needs it.

Christ reigns, and God's concern

"While we deliberate, he reigns; when we decide, he reigns; when we decide foolishly, he reigns; when we serve him in humble loyalty, he reigns; when we serve him self-assertively, he reigns; when we rebel and seek to withhold our service, he reigns -- the Alpha and the Omega, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty."

-William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury (1881-1944) in a sermon at Lambeth Conference. Quoted in Glorious Companions: Five Centuries of Anglican Spirituality by Richard H. Schmidt (Eerdmans, 2002), p. 258.

"It is a great mistake to suppose that God is only, or even chiefly, concerned with religion."

-William Temple in The Hope of A New World (1940). Quoted in Schmidt, p262.

Image: Christus Rex by Peter Eugene Ball, Sculptor at The Cathedral and Parish Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Southwell Minster) Nottinghamshire. 1987.

Renewal of the Mission of the Church

In an age when the traditional church is facing all the currents of post-modernity, including a loss of denominational loyalty and a crisis with regard to membership, what might the renewal of the mission of the church look like? I like the ideas of the Gospel and Our Culture Network, which takes inspiration from the work of Bishop Lesslie Newbigin, who asked and pursued the answers to basic questions about the purpose and mission of the church. Here's their list of characteristics of what we'd call a missional church; a church that hasn't forgotten that it exists only to serve the mission of God embodied in Jesus Christ:




1. The missional church proclaims the gospel.

What it looks like: The story of God’s salvation is faithfully repeated in a multitude of different ways.

2. The missional church is a community where all members are involved in learning to become disciples of Jesus.

What it looks like: The disciple identity is held by all; growth in discipleship is expected of all.

3. The Bible is normative in the church’s life.

What it looks like: The church is reading the Bible together to learn what it can learn nowhere else – God’s good and gracious intent for all creation, the salvation mystery, and the identity and purpose of life together.

4. The church understands itself as different from the world because of its participation in the life, death, and resurrection of its Lord.

What it looks like: In its corporate life and public witness, the church is consciously seeking to conform to its Lord instead of the multitude of cultures in which it finds itself.

5. The church seeks to discern God’s specific missional vocation for the entire community and for all of its members.

What it looks like: The church has made its “mission” it priority, and in overt and communal ways is seeking to be and do “what God is calling us to know, be, and do.”

6. A missional community is indicated by how Christians behave toward one another.

What it looks like: Acts of self-sacrifice on behalf of one another both in the church and in the locale characterize the generosity of the community.

7. It is a community that practices reconciliation.

What it looks like: The church community is moving beyond homogeneity toward a more heterogeneous community in its racial, ethnic, age, gender, and socioeconomic makeup.

8. Peoples within the community hold themselves accountable to one another in love.

What it looks like: Substantial time is spent with one another for the purpose of watching over one another in love.

9. The church practices hospitality.

What it looks like: Welcoming the stranger into the midst of the community plays a central role.

10. Worship is the central act by which the community celebrates with joy and thanksgiving both God’s presence and God’s promised future.

What it looks like: There is a significant and meaningful engagement in communal worship of God, reflecting appropriately and addressing the culture of those who worship together.

11. The community has a vital public witness.

What it looks like: The church makes an observable impact that contributes to the transformation of life, society, and human relationships.

12. There is a recognition that the church itself is an incomplete expression of the reign of God.

What it looks like: There is a widely help perception that this church is going somewhere - and that "somewhere" is a more faithfully lived life in the reign of God.


Biography of Lesslie Newbigin

One like the Son of Man (Christ the King)

The Celebration of Christ the King means that there is an authority above worldly ones, and that it looks just like Jesus. Earthly leaders all have feet of clay, and Christians should have modest expectations in that regard. But we are called each day for service to one whose reign is the reversal of all the sorry abuses of power that we can lay at the feet of humanity. We are called in hope, to receive the kingdom that is not of this world, but that is present in this world.

I'm not preaching on the Revelation passage tomorrow, so I'll pass along the above image and these notable words of John Wesley from his treatment of that chapter one of that book in his Notes on the Whole Bible:

"...He is here styled a prince: but by and by he hears his title of king; yea, King of kings, and Lord of lords." This phrase, the kings of the earth, signifies their power and multitude, and also the nature of their kingdom. It became the Divine Majesty to call them kings with a limitation; especially in this manifesto from his heavenly kingdom; for no creature, much less a sinful man, can bear the title of king in an absolute sense before the eyes of God."

Image: One Like a Son of Man, based on Revelation 1. Woodcut by Lukas Cranach the Elder for Martin Luther's translation of the New Testament.

Courtesy of the Digital Image Archive, Pitts Theology Library, Candler School of Theology, Emory University.

The Reign of Christ the King



Sunday, November 22 is the Last Sunday after Pentecost, on which we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. Here's a thought:

"...The Lord's Prayer, then, just might be the most subversive of all political acts: "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." People who live and pray this way have a very different agenda than Caesar's, whether Republican or Democrat, whether capitalist, socialist or communist, whether democratic or theocratic, for they have entered a kingdom, pledged their allegiance to a ruler, and submitted to the reign of Christ the King...."

A fine essay from Daniel Clendenin on the meaning of Jesus as King

Nederlands: Christus Koning (1936) Jan Eloy Brom & Leo Brom, Groningen (NL)

Hans Holbein, Pilate Washing his Hands, design for a stained glass window. Kunstmuseum Basel, c. 1528.

The Church as People

"If the church is the people and not the institution, it seems to me some significant implications follow at once: (1) What happens on Sunday morning is not half so important as what happens on Monday morning.... (2) It is the lay people who are the key agents in the ministry of reconciliation. The clergy are the support system.... (3) There are no second-class citizens in the household of God...Indicative of the tragic confusion of the two churches, for me, is that as clergy assumed institutional power,...lay people gave up to them religious authority as well.... (4) The clergy are also part of the church, the people of God; and therefore their first, their prime loyalty should be to the church, the people of God. Everything they do for the church, the institution, must clearly be in the service of the church, the people of God."

-Verna Dozier in The Calling of the Laity, as quoted in Glorious Companions: Five Centuries of Anglican Spirituality, by Richard H. Schmidt, page 292.

Elizabeth of Hungary, princess and philanthropist

19 November 1231

The numerous "St. Elizabeth's Hospitals" throughout the world are for the most part named, not for the Biblical Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, but for this princess of Hungary. She was concerned for the relief of the poor and the sick, and with her husband's consent she used her dowry money for their relief. During a famine and epidemic in 1226, while her husband was away in Italy, she sold her jewels and established a hospital where she nursed the sick, and opened the royal granaries to feed the hungry. After her husband's death in 1227, her inlaws, who opposed her "extravagances," expelled her from Wartburg. Finally an arrangement was negotiated with them that gave her a stipend. She became a Franciscan tertiary (lay associate) and devoted the remainder of her life to nursing and charity. She sewed garments to clothe the poor, and went fishing to feed them.

-James Kiefer at James Kiefer's Hagriographs

Image: The Charity of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, by Edmund Blair Leighton, 1895

The Judgment of the Nations

Matthew 25:31-40

Jesus said, "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, `Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king will answer them, `Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.' " New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989

Five Marks of Mission

Mission & Evangelism - The Five Marks of Mission

The Mission of the Church is the mission of Christ

  1. To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
  2. To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
  3. To respond to human need by loving service
  4. To seek to transform unjust structures of society
  5. To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth
(Bonds of Affection-1984 ACC-6 p49, Mission in a Broken World-1990 ACC-8 p101)

Reviewing the 'Five Marks of Mission'

At its second meeting (Ely 1996), MISSIO began reviewing the 'Five Marks of Mission' as developed by the Anglican Consultative Council between 1984 and 1990. We recognise with gratitude that the Five Marks have won wide acceptance among Anglicans, and have given parishes and dioceses around the world a practical and memorable "checklist" for mission activities.

However, we have come to believe that, as our Communion travels further along the road towards being mission-centred, the Five Marks need to be revisited.

Mission: Announcing good news

The first mark of mission, identified at ACC-6 with personal evangelism, is really a summary of what all mission is about, because it is based on Jesus' own summary of his mission (Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:14-15, Luke 4:18, Luke 7:22; cf. John 3:14-17). Instead of being just one (albeit the first) of five distinct activities, this should be the key statement about everything we do in mission.

Mission in context

All mission is done in a particular setting - the context. So, although there is a fundamental unity to the good news, it is shaped by the great diversity of places, times and cultures in which we live, proclaim and embody it. The Five Marks should not lead us to think that there are only five ways of doing mission!

Mission as celebration and thanksgiving

An important feature of Anglicanism is our belief that worship is central to our common life. But worship is not just something we do alongside our witness to the good news: worship is itself a witness to the world. It is a sign that all of life is holy, that hope and meaning can be found in offering ourselves to God (cf. Romans 12:1). And each time we celebrate the eucharist, we proclaim Christ's death until he comes (1 Cor. 11:26). Our liturgical life is a vital dimension of our mission calling; and although it is not included in the Five Marks, it undergirds the forms of public witness listed there.

Mission as church

The Five Marks stress the doing of mission. Faithful action is the measure of our response to Christ (cf. Matt. 25:31-46; James 2:14-26). However, the challenge facing us is not just to do mission but to be a people of mission. That is, we are learning to allow every dimension of church life to be shaped and directed by our identity as a sign, foretaste and instrument of God's reign in Christ. Our understanding of mission needs to make that clear.

Mission as God-in-action

"Mission goes out from God. Mission is God's way of loving and saving the world... So mission is never our invention or choice." (Lambeth Conference 1998, Section II p121). The initiative in mission is God's, not ours. We are called simply to serve God's mission by living and proclaiming the good news. The Five Marks of Mission could make that clearer.

The Five Marks of Mission and beyond

We commend to each Province (and its dioceses) the challenge of developing or revising its own understanding of mission which is faithful to Scripture. We suggest two possible ways forward.
• The Five Marks could be revised to take account of comments like those above. This has the advantage of retaining the familiar shape of the Five Marks.
• Alternatively a holistic statement of mission actions could be strengthened by setting out an understanding of the character of mission. This would affirm the solemn responsibility of each local church to discern how it will most faithfully serve God's mission in its context. An example of such an understanding is given below.

Mission is the creating, reconciling and transforming action of God, flowing from the community of love found in the Trinity, made known to all humanity in the person of Jesus, and entrusted to the faithful action and witness of the people of God who, in the power of the Spirit, are a sign, foretaste and instrument of the reign of God. (Adapted from a statement of the Commission on Mission of the National Council of Churches in Australia.)

Whatever words or ideas each local expression of our Church uses, MISSIO hopes that they will be informed by three convictions:

• We are united by our commitment to serving the transforming mission of God.
• Mission is the bedrock of all we are, do and say as the people of God.
• Our faithfulness in mission will be expressed in a great diversity of mission models, strategies and practices.

Discussion Question

If you were to ask people in leadership positions in your Province (diocese, parish) whether they see mission as "the bedrock of all we are, do and say as the people of God", how do you think they would answer?

Anglicans In Mission (MISSIO report 1999)

Five Marks of Mission