Sixth mark of mission focuses on peace and reconciliation

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Bishop Sue Moxley presents the resolution recommending that a sixth mark of mission relating to peace, conflict transformation, and reconciliation be added to the Anglican Communion’s Five Marks of Mission.

Kingston, Jamaica

A request by the Anglican Church of Canada and the 2009 Mutual Responsibility and Mission Consultation in Costa Rica to add a sixth mark of mission relating to peace, conflict transformation and reconciliation, has been endorsed by the 14th Anglican Consultative Council (ACC).

The ACC requested the mission department of the Anglican Communion office to “take this task forward” and bring a proposal to the next ACC meeting.

The resolution, introduced by the diocesan bishop of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, Sue Moxley, was approved after considerable debate about whether a sixth mark of mission needed to be added or whether its intent was already captured in the five marks of mission. The five marks of mission, developed by the ACC between 1984 and 1990, are to proclaim the good news of the kingdom, to teach, baptize 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.

“This is not a new idea,” said Bishop Moxley, saying that it was initially raised by the inter-Anglican standing committee on mission and evangelism which noted that “some of its goals were not being met because of war situations.” She added that it was also in recognition of the work that’s been going on in “conflict transformation” in many provinces, among them in Burundi, northern Uganda, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Pakistan, the Middle East, and Northern Ireland.

Bishop Moxley said that a meeting of Towards Effective Anglican Mission (TEAM) in South Africa noted that work on the implementation of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) “was impeded and, in some places, impossible” in situations of conflict.

Several opponents to the resolution stated that, while they supported the spirit of the resolution, the issues that it speaks of are already embodied by the fourth mark of mission, “To seek to transform unjust structures of society.”

The two other members of the Canadian Anglican delegation spoke in favour of the resolution. “I remember making the same arguments at our Council of General Synod (CoGS) about why perhaps we ought not to endorse a sixth mark of mission. But subsequent developments in our church convinced me that this in fact is important mark,” said Bishop-elect Stephen Andrews from the diocese of Algoma. “It is possible to think that there’s only one mark of mission and that is to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God.” But “it happens in our particular circumstances, from time to time, different aspects of our discipleship” are required. He said that truth and reconciliation are important, not just at the national level but “even within our own communities; we saw this in our experience of the residential schools situation with our First Nations people.” He added that reconciliation “is very much a mark of mission and an aspect of the church’s evangelism because, if we are not a reconciled community where we can overcome our own differences, …then we cease to be attractive to a world that’s divided and broken.”

Suzanne Lawson, the Canadian Anglican church’s lay delegate, said, “I think we forget to look at peace within our church as well as society.”

Rev. Maurice Elliott, representing clergy of the Church of Ireland, said that, while he comes “from a context where there’s been three decades of war” and supported the thrust of the resolution, he was not convinced that another mark of mission was needed. “Where will this take us next? Will there be another mark of mission later to add inclusiveness or poverty?” he asked, adding that the five marks of mission are already “well-established” and he wants to see them “remain as they are.”

The U.S. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts-Schori, also spoke out against the resolution, saying there would be “awkwardness” on the part of The Episcopal Church since its catechism already speaks of a church as receiving God, who is in Christ “reconciling the world to himself.”

Bishop Moxley said that, while she “didn’t understand some of the comments,” the approval of the resolution was a good start. He said that if the idea for the sixth mark of mission is approved, it will “help energize people” that are already working for peace, conflict transformation and reconciliation.

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Marites N. Sison
Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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