“Partnership is more meaningful when we practice the culture of love both locally and globally.” The Rev. Jessie Anand, London Tamil Christian Congregation
Each year the Church of England hosts the Partnership for World Mission conference, which brings together people across the church who are engaged in global mission relationships around the Anglican Communion and ecumenically. The 2013 focus is the “Changing Shape of Mission in the UK and Europe.” All of the speakers at this year’s conference have addressed themes and issues that are particularly relevant for the church in an increasingly globalized UK and Europe.
The Rev. Dr. Keith Clements’s opening keynote address introduced the concept of Europe as a mosaic and discussed what that means for the life of the church. His session, entitled “Europe as context for Christian faith: care-home or nursery,” focused on changes in daily life and reality in Europe. He lifted up a variety of issues affecting the Church of England and the wider church in Europe, including migration. According to his figures, currently 1 in 35 people in the world today is a migrant in some form or another and over 11 million Christians of non-European origin now live in Europe. He challenged conference attendees to think about what it means to be Anglican in an increasingly globalized, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual society and celebrated the fact that “churches are learning to be free of the need to be dominant and to be free to serve.”
Building on the theme of a mosaic, the Rev. Jessie Anand of the London Tamil Christian Congregation spoke about Receiving Mission and the importance of remembering that “in mission, giving is a blessing but receiving is equally so.” She shared her experiences from parishes around the Church of England and stated that the “fear of the unknown is the greatest disease in churches in the UK.” She urged conference participants to “practice generosity among strange things in the church, accommodate strangers, and create belongingness.” Rev. Anand also spoke about the importance of the companion link relationships that many Church of England dioceses have, saying, “through companion links, our church family is growing. We journey together as a family, a God-given world family.” As conversations continued at meals and during breaks, Rev. Anand urged participants to think about what they give in relationships and what they receive, reminding everyone that it’s essential that all partners feel that they bring something to a relationship and that often times simple actions, like prayers and solidarity, make a big difference.
In keeping with tradition at the Partnership for World Mission conference and the Church of England’s commitment to mutuality in partnership, dioceses were encouraged to invite their partners to attend the conference. Two of those invited were keynote speakers Bishop Given and the Rev. Dr. Lilian Gaula of the Diocese of Kondoa in Tanzania. Bishop Given discussed Christian-Muslim relationships in Tanzania and also participated in workshop about Christian-Muslim relations with the Rev. Dr. Toby Howarth, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Secretary for Inter-Religious Relations.
Bishop Given shared that Christians are a minority in his diocese and that while there is tension between Christians and Muslims, they are committed to “…overcoming tension with love.” Rev. Lilian shared stories about how the women of the diocese are engaged in peace building and social justice work with Muslim women. Bishop Given said that he feels the women’s initiatives are “one of the best mission approaches…[because] this allows for multi-faith, cross cultural friendships…[and creates] a community of peace.”
We are so thankful to our colleagues and partners in the Church of England for inviting us to attend and participate in this year’s Partnership for World Mission conference. It was a wonderful opportunity for listening, learning, conversations, and reflections. Tweets including quotes, comments, and reflections from conference participants be found on Twitter by searching for #pwm2013.