Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Worship is Mission

The following is an open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the ACC, due to meet in Auckland from this coming weekend. It is penned by my friend and colleague, Bosco Peters, Liturgy, and I support it. It is now noted at Thinking Anglicans.

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


Bryden Black said...

Thank you Peter and Bosco. If I may add this brief comment, written some years ago in Melbourne when revising - when trying to revise - the future direction of one of the theological schools there via a formal review:

The point is this: for good or ill, we become like what we worship. Just so, we cannot face the world in mission unless we have first faced God in worship - and yet the authenticity of that worship is tested by the reality of our mission. Generically, our entering into God’s mission for the world is our entering into the worship of God, which mission is justly celebrated in the Church’s liturgy. [ends]


Tim Chesterton said...

Peter, I strongly disagree with your heading. I think worship and mission are separate aspects of the work of the Church. They are related, of course (worship leads into mission, which leads into more worship, etc. etc.) but they are not exactly the same.

I would be in favour of revising the Five Marks of Mission, but in the direction of reducing them, not adding to them. I think the more we add, the more we confuse 'things Christians are commanded to do' with 'the purpose for which Jesus sends us out into the world'. For instance, I think that protecting the integrity of creation is very important for Christian disciples, but I'd hesitate to include it in a list of marks of mission, because it's not one of the things that Jesus told us to do when he said 'Go therefore...'.

Unknown said...

The group MISSIO is ahead of you on this, having already proposed reducing the Five Marks to one core 'mark', with 'worship' as a form of that one mark:

"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."

It goes on, "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."

The only proviso I would add to this is that of course the public context of the Lord's Supper should be one in which the Word is also read and preached.

See here.

(By the way the thing you're supposed to type to verify your identity is almost illegible and totally inaudible for me.)

Jethro said...

Is not doing the Five Marks of Mission worship? Is not our liturgy already an instrument of proclamation, and teaching, baptizing and nurturing? Does not worship under gird the very idea of mission already?

Is mission a part of worship, or worship a part of mission?

liturgy said...

Thanks Peter for pressing this movement forward;
and thanks, people, for the helpful comments, especially the Missio page.

There is a tendency to use services as a means rather than worship as a goal. Let's hope we are reaching the furthest point of that particular pendulum swing.



Tim Chesterton said...

There is a tendency to use services as a means rather than worship as a goal.

Bosco, I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that 'spiritual worship' and 'reasonable service' are alternative translations of the same Greek phrase in Romans 12:1...:)

Anonymous said...

I agree with having worship as part of the Chuche's mission statement, but the understanding of worship expressed above is too Roman to be useful to the whole church. The Church needs to widen it's understanding of worship to include non-liturgical forms. As well, the AC has always had a strong Reformed branch which would find statements such as the Eucharist being the source and summit of Christian life theologically questionable.