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The Call to Discipleship in the US and Canada

Copyright AlbinHillert/WCC

The Call to Discipleship in the US and Canada

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Revd Michael B. Curry, joined with Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and National Bishop Susan C. Johnson, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada to release a letter commending the Arusha Call to Discipleship, an initiative of the World Council of Churches.

The Arusha Call to Discipleship is the report of a World Council of Churches’ Conference on World Mission and Evangelism held in March last year in Arusha, Tanzania. This Call to Discipleship comes out of the tension between the hope of the gospel and the challenges of the times:

Despite some glimmers of hope, we had to reckon with death-dealing forces that are shaking the world order and inflicting suffering on many. We observed the shocking accumulation of wealth due to one global financial system, which enriches few and impoverishes many (Isaiah 5:8). This is at the root of many of today’s wars, conflicts, ecological devastation, and suffering (1Timothy 6:10). This global imperial system has made the financial market one of the idols of our time. It has also strengthened cultures of domination and discrimination that continue to marginalize and exclude millions, forcing some among us into conditions of vulnerability and exploitation. We are mindful that people on the margins bear the heaviest burden. …

Discipleship is both a gift and a calling to be active collaborators with God for the transforming of the world (1Thessalonians 3:2).  In what the church’s early theologians called “theosis” or deification, we share God’s grace by sharing God’s mission. This journey of discipleship leads us to share and live out God’s love in Jesus Christ by seeking justice and peace in ways that are different from the world (John 14:27). Thus, we are responding to Jesus’ call to follow him from the margins of our world (Luke 4:16-19).

In adopting and commending the report, the Primates of the US and Canadian Episcopal and Evangelical Lutheran Churches related its Call to a culture and context in which,

We are mindful especially of seeking racial justice, of  honouring the Quad-Centennial (1619-2019) of the forced trans-Atlantic transportation of enslaved African persons to this continent; of challenging theologies which have endorsed dispossession of Indigenous Peoples; and of strengthening our support for the displaced and dispossessed seeking new beginnings in our midst.

The four church leaders add:

We welcome this witness from Christians around the world. The Call is a document of realism and of joy, of honest assessment and of hope for transformation, of trust in the way of Christ and in the power of the Spirit.

Especially, we lift up these features of the Call, which gives voice to many of the same convictions increasingly emphasized in our four churches:

    1. It identifies deepening the discipleship of Christians as the primary missional and evangelical concern, knowing that the Gospel truly lived is the best form of witness to it.
    2. It defines mission in a manner that seeks to move away from colonialist perspectives, understanding that it is not the work of the Church directed ‘to the margins’ but God’s work originating ‘from the margins’.
    3. It insists that all mission and evangelism must be integrated and holistic, not endorsing any false dichotomy between a spiritual salvation and the transformation of social, economic, racial, environmental, and gender injustices.
    4. It understands that as the Church is called into ‘active collaboration’ in God’s mission, this responsibility rests not only with those who serve in offices of leadership in the Church; it relies on a renewal of the vocations and ministry of all the baptized.

Read in our cultural settings, the Call provides a common touchstone in the continued shaping of our full communion efforts in mission and evangelism across the national border which separates us. This full communion is an important sign of our deepening unity as churches in ministry together on this land long known to many as Turtle Island, the continent of North America.

Read the Arusha Call to Discipleship here, and the letter from the four Primates commending the Call here.

Photo: Arusha 2018: World Council of Churches Conference of World Mission and Evangelism. Photo by Albin Hillert. Copyright Albin Hillert/WCC

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