Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Missio Dei

Dunedin is getting pretty good at stealing marches. The city has stolen a march on Christchurch by getting a covered stadium first. Now the Diocese has stolen a march on my Diocese by publishing details of its future restructuring draft plan (here). Our Synod will receive a draft plan when it next meets, likely March 2013. ADU will not attempt to second guess what might be in that draft plan but some principles for any structuring of any diocese could be noted here.

To my mind, the first and supreme principle is to establish our understanding of the mission of God (missio dei for those who speak Systematic Theology). What is that mission? What is the Diocese's role in it? How might we contribute to that mission? In town X do we need a church, a school, a welfare centre, a travelling caravan, all of the above or one or more of these possibilities? In what way can we contribute to the mission via the internet and a 'virtual presence'? The year of prayer and study already called for by Bishop Victoria will be a vital discernment of our role in God's mission in Canterbury and Westland.

Secondly, the next principle to establish is our understanding of ecumenicity. The mission of God transcends all churches, and calls on all churches to engage in that mission. Nothing about the mission of God stops the Anglicans or Baptists or Catholics having a church in every suburb and town, but the transcendent nature of the mission begs the question whether we need a physical Anglican presence (i.e. church building or school etc) in every part of each diocese. With respect to Christchurch, a major new housing development, I hear, already has some land set aside for the Baptists to build a church in it. Only with a clear understanding of ecumenicity will we discern whether we should be also seeking a physical presence there as well.

A third principle - I am sure there are more, but the day and its deeds beckon - is family well-being. Each of our congregations is a family within the great family of God. The way in which a congregation meets (time, venue, (in)ability to share fellowship over a cup of tea, etc) contributes to the well-being of the family. At one extreme, if this were the sole principle driving NZ dioceses forward, we should rebuild every damaged church or strengthen every quake-prone church in order to house each congregational family in the style to which they have been accustomed. At another extreme, if we decided to close down every church building (e.g. because of the folly of trying to maintain, insure, and develop buildings) an inevitable breakdown of Anglican 'family life' (as previously known) would occur. In a situation of many interacting factors re population shifts, costs of repairs and replacement, future insurance costs, and intention to have each church building at an agreed minimum strength re the building code, Kiwi Anglican decisions likely will be made which lie between the two extremes noted above.

One way of expressing the challenge for the Structural Review Group which our Standing Committee will appoint soon, is that the challenge will consist of balancing these three (and other) principles in determining our future structure.

1 comment:

Father Ron Smith said...

Could the Dunedin diocesan Plan have more to do with the persistent economic reality that simply will not go away - rather than with the complete re-structuring that our diocese of Christchurch will have to undergo as a direct result of diminution of congregations and plant because of the earthquakes?

I don't really see any great missional differences between the respective leadership initiatives of our two dioceses - such as might occasion either merit or complaint.

I think both dioceses are dealing with different problems in their own particular circumstances - with as much pragmatism as is possible