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Open Letter to ACC15

Anglican Consultative Council

[Update 20 October 2012: As well as commenting below, you can add your name to the hope that worship/liturgy is included in a revised mission statement here.

I have now established that the two representatives to ACC from this province are Archdeacon Turi Hollis and Dr Tony Fitchett. Both have been sent the open letter following. I have been told that there is room for discussion of our mission statement in the ACC agenda, and am assured that this letter will now form part of that discussion.]

Dear Archbishop of Canterbury and members of the Anglican Consultative Council,

This open letter is a passionate request that you revise the Anglican five-fold mission statement and explicitly include worship/liturgy.

The five-fold mission statement is regularly used as a starting point for the life and mission of the church. It is good, but inadequate. I ardently advocate that our worship, our liturgy, be central, and be seen to be central, to the church’s mission. Its omission from the five-fold mission statement affects our church life and integrity.

The Anglican five-fold mission statement from the Anglican Consultative Council has:

  • To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
  • To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
  • To respond to human need by loving service
  • To seek to transform unjust structures of society
  • 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)

I propose that worship, liturgy, is not a means to further the mission of the church. It is not a means to further any or all of the dimensions in the five-fold mission statement. Worship, in and of itself, is an essential dimension of our mission and should find its place in our accepted mission statement.

Worship, liturgy, especially the Eucharist, is understood, by the majority of Christians, to be “the source and summit of the Christian life” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 11). St Ignatius Loyola understood “The human person is created to praise, reverence, and serve God” (The Principle and Foundation in his Spiritual Exercises).

Although worship is not a means, giving it centrality does lead to desirable effects. On the other hand, I would argue, the loss of the pivotal place of worship and liturgy leads to consequences, such as the loss of the unifying power of common prayer, of common worship.

I would suggest that as Anglicans unity has been a gift to us through common prayer which has been at the heart of Anglicanism. We neglect our shared spiritual disciplines, and our common unity in God through Christ in the Spirit, at a cost to our unity. Lex orandi, lex credendi, (“the law of prayer is the law of belief”); lex vivendi, in fact. Prayer shapes belief which shapes our life.

In this province, as just one example, during the last three decades we have seen the removal of the clergy’s requirement of Daily Prayer and a diminution of study, training, and formation in liturgy, worship, spirituality. Stressing the centrality of worship and liturgy in a revised Anglican mission statement I hope will be part of returning training formation and study of liturgy, worship, spirituality to be foundational to our life as church. I would love to see contemplation, spirituality, prayer, worship, liturgy as being foundational to formation of our clergy and our communities. Placing worship/liturgy as central to a revised, updated, mission statement will, I hope, aid renewal. The contemplative dimension provides a solid foundation in our new often-post-modern, often-post-Christian context, where many are unnecessarily disconcerted by change and also new conclusions in scientific, ethical, and even theological endeavours.

I understand that the Anglican Consultative Council has previously discussed having worship as a dimension of church mission, and this letter advocates that revising our five-fold mission statement, to place worship at the heart of church mission, be once again progressed.

Be assured that my prayers are with you as you gather for your meeting in Auckland

Rev. Bosco Peters
Christchurch, Aotearoa New Zealand
www.liturgy.co.nz

Many readers here will be aware that the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) will be holding its 15th Meeting in Auckland from 27 October to 7 November 2012. Although (at least in this province) the ACC has no canonical status, it is very influential. The ACC membership includes from one to three persons from each province. Where there are three members, there is a bishop, a priest, and a lay person. Where fewer members are appointed, preference is given to lay membership. The ACC is often referred to as one of the four instruments of communion, the others being the Archbishop of Canterbury (the only one canonically recognised in this province), the Lambeth Conference, and the Primates Meeting.

Regulars here will not be surprised that I cannot easily find who our province’s ACC members are online. Synchronously, yesterday Anglican Taonga mentioned that Archdeacon Turi Hollis is a delegate from our province. I will forward the above open letter to him, and to other people who may know, and send smoke signals and homing pigeons. If you know ACC delegates in your own province, please draw their attention to this letter.

ACC-15 Info brochure (PDF)

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37 Responses to Open Letter to ACC15

  1. I find it helpful to point out that the Episcopal Church (US&c.) catechism (page 855 of our BCP), in response to the question, “How does the Church pursue it mission?” states: “The Church pursues its mission as it prays and worships, proclaims the Gospel, and promotes justice, peace, and love.” Note that the first two and at least part of the third have very much to do with what goes on in liturgy, the implication being that this is the starting point!

    • Thanks so much, Tobias! I looked through our own catechism; unfortunately it has:

      32. What is the mission of the Church?
      To proclaim the good news of God’s Kingdom, to make disciples, to work for justice and peace; and to strive for reconciliation and healing in a broken world.

      It does get better further on:

      66. How may we live this life?
      By prayer, by regular worship and by using our time, talents and money to serve Christ in the world.

      Better, here, is the start of our church’s constitution:

      WHEREAS (1) the Church is the body of which Christ is the head and all baptised persons are members, believing that God is one and yet revealed as Father, Son and Holy Spirit – a Holy Trinity, and
      (a) lives to be the agent and sign of the Kingdom of God.
      (b) is called to offer worship and service to God in the power of the Holy Spirit and

      Blessings

  2. Dear Fr. Bosco: Please receive the warmest greetings from your brothers and sisters from Ecuador, South America. We do believe worship to be central to Anglicanism everywhere, unless we are no longer a legitimate branch of the catholic, apostolic & historical Church of Christ.

    • Thanks, Mike. I was, this morning, preparing some ideas for blog posts next week. One will be about Christian numerical growth/decline. You will see me make a similar point to yours there. Blessings.

  3. The Westminster Catechism makes it clear from point 1 that “our chief end” is the worship of God.

  4. Actually I’d like to see the statement shortened, not lengthened. Christian mission means the things Jesus sends us out to do. And one or two of the items in the five marks of mission certainly have no dominical warrant, although they are definitely part of the godly life God has called us to.

    And it’s not called a ‘mission statement’, it’s called the ‘Five Marks of Mission’. The difference is important. In modern parlance, a.mission statement describes the essential tasks and character of an organization. But in the church, mission is what Jesus sends us out to do. The church gathers for worship and fellowship and then scatters for mission. The fact that worship is not included in the five marks of mission does not mean we don’t think worship is important. It simply means that worship is in another category of activity. If ‘mission’ comes to mean ‘every single thing God has called us to do’, then mission becomes a useless word.

    • Thanks, Tim. Our difference may be due to the fact that it is called a “mission statement”. On our province’s official website, just to give one example. It is then used as a sort of checklist, for example in strategic planning for ordination training. Not having worship on such a checklist is a mistake that needs rectifying.

      I strongly disagree with your image of the church gathering for worship and scattering for mission. We can be involved in mission while gathered. We can be involved in worship while scattered.

      I am committed to worship being something that Jesus expects of us as much as proclaiming the good news of the kingdom…

      Blessings.

      • Bosco, it may be called a ‘Mission Statement’ on your province’s website, but it is not so called on the Anglican Communion website.

        Alan and Eleanor Kreider, in their recent book ‘Worship and Mission after Christendom’, show how worship proceeds out into mission, and the goal of mission is further worship, as new churches are planted and the world is renewed as a place of praise to God. So I would grant you that worship and mission are intimately related, but I would still maintain that they are distinct aspects of the work of the church and should not be confused.

        Also, I’ve been around the Anglican Church for long enough to know what happens when we confuse them. For large parts of our Anglican history ‘going to church on Sunday and trying to be a good person through the week’ has been the entirety of what it means to be an Anglican Christian. In the Anglican Church we don’t need encouragement to make Sunday worship our priority; it’s been our default position for centuries. And once we tell people (as Peter Carrell has done on his website) that ‘Worship is Mission’, then many – perhaps most? – Anglicans will breath a sigh of relief and think ‘OK, then, as long as we worship we’re fulfilling God’s mission – end of story’. As a lifelong evangelist who has fought throughout my whole ministry for any recognition of evangelism and disciple making as legitimate mainstream activities for Anglicans, I find this a scary prospect.

  5. Hello Bosco
    You are, of course, absolutely correct, and I am sure that ACC will take your request very seriously. Given that ACC is a very diverse committee, with a lot of other complex issues on its agenda, I wonder how easy it will be for them to come up with a satisfactory revision. Their deliberations might be assisted if you offered a suggested amendment.
    Edward

    • Thanks, Edward, for your excellent suggestion. I will think about it. I certainly do not think that ACC would incorporate worship into the statement at this meeting in Auckland, but sincerely hope that energy grows for this here at ACC15, and it be added in a revision by ACC16. I am certainly open to suggestions. Do you have any ideas? Blessings.

  6. We share in God’s mission because we worship God, we do not worship God primarily because we share in the mission, though mission draws us into and enriches mission.

    The great commandments are still love of God and neighbour, the first leads to the second; in the Great Commission the disciples worshiped and were then sent in mission.

  7. One other problem with the mission statement/marks of mission is that it was formulated before all the influential work on Missional Church, with its key insight that we do not have a mission – we are an expression of mission – the Missio Dei, or the mission of God.

    How about this for a rough draft of an amendment?

    Anglicans are called to participate in the Mission of God. We do this by offering worship to the Holy Trinity, both in specific acts of individual or corporate worship, and through:
    proclaiming….
    teaching….
    responding….
    seeking….
    striving…..

    That would require a minimum of redrafting, and place worship centrally, without making it a sixth mark of mission.

    Carry on the good work, Bosco
    Edward

    • Edward, I think that may be exactly the sort of way forward! There have been discussions on social networks and emails and I think that an introductory piece like this with a focus on worship may be the better way of progressing. Blessings.

  8. Dear Fr. Peters,
    Thank you for this letter. I fully agree that if we lose the centrality of worship, especially the Eucharist, then all of our other dimensions have lost their center, and thus, they become dissociated from each other as well as finding other (perhaps conflicting) justifications for their existence. This letter reflects our mission at the Center for the Eucharist: Re-Centering from the Center. In worship, we are formed to contemplate the truth and presence of God, we are transformed into sacraments of that presence for the life of the world.
    Ralph

  9. Bosco, I wholeheartedly support your letter and your intention, and that without diminishing the importance of the current ‘Five Marks of Mission’. And strongly support your plea for a recovery of the Anglican distinctive of ‘common worship’. +Brian.

    • Thanks, Bishop Brian. Yes, I wholeheartedly support the five marks, and hope we can renew our Anglican insight around worship without losing our newfound missional dimensions. Thanks for your encouragement. Blessings.

  10. Why don’t we just go straight for Bevans’ and Schoeder’s ‘mission as prophetic dialogue model which co-ordinates liturgy into the whole synthesised model?

    • Thanks, Andii. Can you express how that would look? I think a revision of the Marks of Mission is going to have more energy than abandoning these and starting with a fresh sheet. Perhaps you could express your point into a revision? Blessings.

  11. Bosch, I don’t think my construct sees worship as a means and proclamation as a goal. You could just as easily say that worship is a cause, leading into mission as an effect. But I would prefer to say that the goal is to glorify God and to imitate Christ, and that worship, discipleship, fellowship, mission and evangelism are all ways of doing this.

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Rev. Bosco Peters Welcome to this ecumenical website of resources and reflections on liturgy, spirituality, and worship for individuals and communities. It is run by Rev. Bosco Peters.