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Conflict, Confluence and Creativity: Interrogating the Five Marks of Mission

'Conflict, Confluence and Creativity: Interrogating the Five Marks of Mission'

Thank you for joining us!

Whose mission is the Christian mission?  challenged Dr. Masiiwa Ragies Gunda in the opening keynote of the FeAST networks inaugural Conference. 

On 5th December 2023 around 60 scholars and practitioners from around the world gathered to look afresh at the Anglican Communion’s Five Marks of Mission which have been an adopted framework for mission for the past 40 years. Bringing together distinguished key notes speakers, Dr. Kwok Pui-lan and Dr. Masiiwa Ragies Gunda, and eight paper presentations from emerging scholars the day enabled critical dialogue and conversation around the mission in the Anglican Communion.

Dr. Masiiwa Ragies Gunda opened the Conference with a Decolonial Critique of the Five Marks of Mission sharing how the goodness of creation became disrupted with humanity taking center stage. Highlighting the impact of imperial projects that hid erasure, colonisation and destruction behind the missional imperatives of teaching and proclaiming, he left us with the questions of how can we re-member, re-claim and re-imagine the Mission of God in a way that will decolonzise the role of the church in that mission?

The Conference then split into parallel paper sessions offering eight scholars to present short papers. Thank you to our presenters who covered themes such as: ‘Mission and Anglican Theological Education in the current Brazilian scenario’, ‘Integrity of creation: An Old Testament response for mission of the church towards ecology’ and ‘Critiquing the Marks of Mission in light of contemporary British Chaplaincy Studies’. 

The event ended with an inspiring keynote by Dr. Kwok Pui-lan. She emphasised the need to move beyond British colonial hegemony to be a polycentric Communion that serves God’s mission and responds to the need of the marginalised and vulnerable people. In doing so we are challenged to learn to live in the uneasiness and messiness of conflictual options and diverse theologies. She concluded stating that “Many Anglicans would like to see the birth of a new church: a church that is not afraid of cultural differences but welcomes the diversity of the Body of Christ as its strength.” Through the ongoing events and publications of the USPG FeAST network we seek to celebrate this diversity and the creativity, critical-edge and courage that emerges when we extend the table and build a wider community of scholars.

Click here to watch in Portuguese and Spanish.

Keynote Speakers:

Dr. Kwok Pui-lan - Dean’s Professor of Systematic Theology at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, USA. An internationally known theologian, her research focuses on Asian/American feminist theology and postcolonial theology.

Dr. Masiiwa Ragies Gunda - Programme Executive, Overcoming Racism, Xenophobia and Related Discrimination at the World Council of Churches. At the heart of his research journey is a commitment to biblical justice and equity.



The five Marks of Mission of the Anglican Communion have, over the last forty years, provided a useful framework for many Christians worldwide to reflect on, and engage in, mission. 2024 will mark 40 years of the first adoption of these marks (as only four ‘dimensions’ of mission), by the 6th plenary meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council that took place in Badagry, Nigeria in 1984.  Since their adoption, and their subsequent acceptance in the 1988 Lambeth Conference, these Marks of Mission have undergone significant revision and calls for robust critical engagement. One of the most significant of these revisions was the inclusion of a fifth Mark of Mission in the 8th Anglican Consultative Council held in 1990, which added the fifth Mark of Mission - To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth - in response to the worsening ecological crisis (ACC 1990:101). Further, the 15th Anglican Consultative Council held in Aotearoa New Zealand in 2012 adjusted the wording of the 4th Mark of Mission by adding the following  - “to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation” - to what earlier read as “to seek to transform unjust structures of society”. All these developments affirm that the five Marks of Mission are indicators of a dynamic process rather than a static set of agenda for mission. 

Churches across the Anglican communion have engaged with the Marks of Mission in creative and constructive ways. For example, the Church of Ceylon has added a sixth Mark of Mission -Transcend- to the already existing  five Marks - Tell, Teach, Tend, Transform and Treasure. This new Mark seeks “to maintain harmonious coexistence and dialogue with people of all faiths and recognize God’s presence among them” in a religiously and culturally pluralistic Sri Lankan context. There are other churches too which have engaged creatively with these Marks of Mission as they tried to reimagine their missional engagement. However, there have been criticisms of the five Marks of Mission, including the observation that in their definition the five Marks have been “formulated as a list of "to-do" things” and driven by an agenda-anxiety*.

*Christopher Duraisingh, ‘From Church-Shaped Mission to Mission-Shaped Church’, Anglican Theological Review, (2010, 92.1), (pp.7-28), 12. Dura 

This conference will explore the various ways in which churches and communities have responded to and engaged with these Marks of Mission, which for many are a marker of contemporary Anglican identity. It will explore the various sites of conflict, confluence and creativity as Christian communities sought to make sense of and live out the five Marks of Mission. 

The 40th ‘anniversary’ of the five Marks of Mission opens up exciting possibilities to revisit the rationale, role and relevance of these marks in the reimagination of mission. This is all the more pressing in the current context of world Christianities, where missional reimagination needs to take into consideration the following factors - pluralism, post-colonial consciousness, poverty and plunder (economic and ecological).



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